U.S. Department of Labor Continues Education and Enforcement Campaign to Boost Compliance in Southeast’s Agriculture Industry
ATLANTA, GA – The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is currently engaged in an education and enforcement initiative to boost compliance in the Southeast's agricultural industry, educate stakeholders, employers, and employees about federal wage laws, and to provide employers with compliance assistance.
Working with stakeholder organizations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, WHD identifies the best methods for raising awareness among industry employers and provides them the tools they need to comply with applicable laws. As part of the initiative, WHD representatives have participated in regional events hosted by local fruit and vegetable growers associations and farm bureaus. In the months ahead, outreach efforts will extend to various commodity groups, trade associations, agricultural extension agents, and other governmental agencies to share information on various programs' requirements.
Compliance assistance and enforcement work hand in hand,as the division continues to focus on decreasing violations in the Southeast's agricultural industry. From January 2018 through March 2019, WHD investigators found violations in 90% of the 345 investigations of agricultural employers they concluded. In all, these investigations found employers owed more than $1.3 million to more than 3,800 employees, and led the Division to assess more than $1.9 million in civil money penalties. WHD has recommended that 20 Southeast growers and farm labor contractors be debarred from participating in the H-2A temporary labor certification agricultural program.
"The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to ensuring that agriculture industry employees receive all the wages they have legally earned, that their employers comply with the rules, and that the playing field remains level for law-abiding employers," said Wage and Hour Division Regional Administrator Juan Coria, in Atlanta, Georgia. "Our outreach staff is available throughout the Southeast to equip employers and associations with compliance assistance resources, answer their questions, and help them avoid costly violations. We encourage them to call us for assistance."
WHD may suspend, revoke, or withhold renewal of farm labor certificates for contractors that have committed multiple violations under the Migrant Seasonal Protection Act (MSPA) or that 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.