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THE MIGRANT AND SEASONAL AGRICULTURAL WORKER PROTECTION ACT

The Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA) protects migrant and seasonal agricultural workers in their dealings with farm labor contractors, agricultural employees, agricultural associations, and providers of migrant housing. All persons and organizations subject to the act must observe certain rules when recruiting, soliciting, hiring, employing, transporting, or housing these workers, or when furnishing them to other employers.

Exemptions

Certain persons and organizations, such as small businesses, some seed and tobacco operations, labor unions, and their employees, are exempt from the act.

Registration Requirement

Before performing any farm labor contracting activities, farm labor contractors must register with the U.S. Department of Labor and obtain certificates of registration specifying the types of activities they are authorized to perform. Persons employed by farm labor contractors to perform such activities also must register with the department. Application for registration can be made at local offices of the state employment service. Certification may be denied, suspended, or revoked for violation of any provision of MSPA.

Farm labor contractors and farm labor contractor employees must carry proof of registration and show it to workers, agricultural employers, agricultural associations, and any other persons with whom they deal as contractors.

Agricultural associations, agricultural employers, and their employees are not considered farm labor contractors and do not have to register. Before they engage the services of any farm labor contractor, however, they must take reasonable steps to insure that the contractor has a Labor Department certificate valid for the services to be performed. The department has a toll-free number (1- 800-800-0235) for inquiries about the validity of certificates.

Compliance

Agricultural associations, agricultural employers, and farm labor contractors must:

-- inform migrant workers and seasonal day-haul workers about prospective employment, in writing when they are being recruited, and provide to other seasonal workers such information in writing upon request when they are offered work. Information must be written in English, Spanish, or other languages, as appropriate. Thereafter, migrant and seasonal workers have a right to receive upon request a written statement of such information;

-- pay workers their wages when due, and give them itemized, written statements of earnings for each pay period, including any amount deducted and reasons for deductions;

-- keep complete and accurate payroll records for all workers; in addition, farm labor contractors must give any other farm labor contractor, agricultural employer, or agricultural association to whom they supply workers, copies of payroll records for each worker supplied to that particular contractor, employer, or association;

-- assure that vehicles used or caused to be used by a farm labor contractor, agricultural employer, or agricultural association to transport workers are properly insured, are operated by licensed drivers, and meet federal and state safety standards;

-- display conspicuously at the job site a poster setting forth the rights and protections of the workers; posters are available from the Wage and Hour Division;

-- comply with terms of the working arrangements they have made with workers.

Housing Standards

Each person or organization which owns or controls real property used for housing migrant workers must comply with federal and state safety and health standards. A written statement of the terms and conditions of occupancy must be posted conspicuously at the housing site, or be given to workers.

Other Provisions

Farm labor contractors must comply with the terms of written agreements made with agricultural employers and agricultural associations.

Enforcement

The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment Standards Administration administers MSPA. During investigations, Wage and Hour investigators may enter and inspect premises (including vehicles and housing), review and transcribe payroll records, and interview workers to determine whether their employers are in compliance with MSPA.

Investigators may advise violators to make changes necessary to achieve compliance. They also may recommend assessment of civil money penalties and revocation of certificates of registration. Failure to comply with MSPA may result in civil or criminal prosecution.

Administrative actions under MSPA include penalties of up to $1,000 per violation and, in the case of farm labor contractors, revocation of existing certificates and denial of future certificates. To insure compliance with MSPA, the Secretary of Labor may seek court injunctions prohibiting further violations and may bring criminal charges. Courts may assess fines of up to $10,000 and prison terms of up to three years in criminal cases.

In addition to the above remedies, individuals whose rights under MSPA have been violated may file suit directly in federal court for damages.

For more information...
Contact either the nearest office of State Employment Services, listed in most telephone directories under State Government, or the nearest office of the Wage and Hour Division, listed under U.S. Government, Department of Labor, Employment Standards Administration. The federal regulations implementing MSPA appear in 29 CFR Part 500.

This is one of a series of fact sheets highlighting U.S. Department of Labor Programs. It is intended as a general description only and does not carry the force of legal opinion.

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