U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division Education and Enforcement Initiative for Southeast’s Agriculture Industry Underway
ATLANTA, GA – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is currently engaged in an education and enforcement initiative to educate industry stakeholders, employers, and employees in the Southeast’s agricultural industry about federal wage laws, and to provide compliance assistance to employers. The initiative includes educational outreach events and investigations of employers.
WHD is working with a variety of stakeholder organizations in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee to identify the best methods for raising awareness among agricultural industry employers and to provide them the tools they need to comply with applicable laws. Recent outreach has included WHD participation at regional events hosted by the Georgia and Florida Fruit and Vegetable Growers Associations, the S.C. Farmworkers Institute, and GAP Connections. In the months ahead, Division representatives will engage commodity groups, trade associations, agricultural extension agents, H-2A agents, and other government agencies to distribute information describing various programs’ requirements.
In addition to education and awareness, WHD will continue its enforcement efforts to ensure employers and labor contractors meet their legal requirements. Compliance in the Southeast’s agricultural industry remains a concern. Of the 483 investigations of agricultural employers completed in WHD’s southeast region from January 2017 through March 2018, 78 percent found violations and led the Division to identify employers that owed more than $1.4 million in back wages to more than 3,400 workers and assess more than $1.8 million in civil money penalties. The Department has also debarred 13 employers from participating in the H-2A temporary labor certification agricultural program as a result of enforcement actions in the Southeast.
“Agricultural employers must be aware of their obligations under the law and act accordingly,” said Wage and Hour Division Regional Administrator Wayne Kotowski, in Atlanta. “This education and enforcement initiative seeks to supply employers with the resources they need to comply and level the playing field for law-abiding employers. It is also designed to ensure employers provide farmworkers with safe working conditions and pay them the wages they have legally earned.”
WHD may suspend, revoke, or withhold renewal of farm labor certificates for farm labor contractors who have committed multiple violations under the Migrant Seasonal Protection Act (MSPA) or who fail to comply with a final order requiring the payment of a civil money penalty as a result of a violation. Employers are encouraged to review the MSPA ineligible farm labor contractor and H-2A debarment lists prior to contracting for labor.
The Division offers multiple compliance assistance resources to provide employers the tools they need to comply with the law. The Division encourages employers to contact them to find out about upcoming compliance assistance events, to request information, or to ask specific questions. All calls are confidential.