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LABOR STANDARDS FOR MIGRANT AND SEASONAL AGRICULTURE WORKERS

The Migrant and Seasonal Agriculture Workers Protection Act (MSPA) requires agricultural employers, agricultural associations, and farm labor contractors to observe certain labor standards when employing migrant and seasonal agricultural workers, unless exemptions apply. Certain persons and organizations, such as family businesses, small businesses, some seed and tobacco operations, labor unions, and their employees, are exempt. MSPA requires farm labor contractors to register with the U.S. Department of Labor.

What is the difference between migrant and seasonal agricultural workers?

As defined by MSPA, migrant agricultural workers are those employed in agricultural work of a seasonal or temporary nature who are required to be absent overnight from their permanent residence.

Seasonal agricultural workers also are employed in agricultural work of a seasonal or temporary nature, but return to their permanent residence at night.

There are two classes of seasonal agricultural workers: field workers; and workers employed in canning, packing, ginning, seed conditioning and other processing operations, who are transported to or from their place of employment by means of a day-haul operation. Day-haul workers assemble at a pick-up point each day waiting to be hired and employed, are transported to the job site, and later the same day are transported to a drop-off point.

What are the rights of migrant and seasonal agricultural workers?

When migrant agricultural workers are recruited by farm labor contractors, agricultural employers, and agricultural associations, accurate information about the prospective employment must be disclosed to them.

The information must be presented in writing in English, Spanish, or other languages, as appropriate, and must include the following: work site location, existence of strike, work stoppage, slow down, or interruption of operations by employees at the work site; crops; work activities; pay rate; benefits provided such as transportation and housing; charges for the benefits; employer commissions or other benefits for sales made to the workers by any establishment near the job site; migrant housing terms and conditions.

The above information must be disclosed in writing to day-haul seasonal workers when they are being recruited. Other seasonal agricultural workers have a right to the information in writing upon request when they are offered work. When presented in writing, the information must be in English, Spanish, or other languages, as appropriate.

Thereafter, migrant and seasonal agricultural workers have a right to receive upon request information described above at any other time during their employment.

Migrant and seasonal agricultural workers have the following rights, regardless of whether their employers are farm labor contractors, agricultural employers or agricultural associations:

-- to have the terms of their working arrangements met;

-- when being recruited, to have farm labor contractors show proof that they have registered with the Department of Labor;

-- to be paid wages when due;

-- to receive itemized, written statements of earnings for each pay period, amounts deducted and reasons for the deductions;

-- to purchase goods and services from the source of their choice;

-- when provided transportation, to be transported in vehicles which are properly insured, are operated by licensed drivers, and meet federal and State safety standards;

-- to have a poster setting forth their rights displayed in a conspicuous place at the job site.

For migrant workers who are provided housing:

-- to be housed in a facility which meets substantive federal and State safety and health standards;

-- to have a statement of the terms and conditions of occupancy posted conspicuously at the housing site or presented to them.

Enforcement

Migrant and seasonal agricultural workers have a right to receive the wages their employers agreed to pay them. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, that amount is generally not less than $4.25 per hour, the federal minimum wage. Federal law does not require overtime pay for most agricultural workers.

Violations of MSPA may result in administrative sanctions, civil or criminal prosecution, civil money penalties of up to $1,000 per violation, criminal fines of up to $10,000, and prison terms of up to three years.

The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment Standards Administration enforces MSPA. Inquiries are treated in a confidential manner. MSPA prohibits retaliation or discrimination against workers who file complaints, testify, or in any way exercise their rights on their own behalf or on the behalf of others.

For more information...
Contact either the nearest office of the Wage and Hour Division, listed in most telephone directories under U.S. Government, Department of Labor, Employment Standards Administration, or the nearest office of State Employment Services, listed under State Government.
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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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