Department of Labor Targeting Southeast Agriculture

Ernie NeffLabor

© Florida Department of Citrus

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division is engaged in an education and enforcement initiative to increase compliance with federal labor laws in the Southeast’s agricultural industry. In addition to enforcement activity, the initiative provides compliance assistance to employers and educates workers and other stakeholders.

The division is working with industry stakeholders in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee on a variety of methods to raise industry awareness and provide information and tools to increase compliance. Outreach by division representatives has included regional educational events hosted by local fruit and vegetable growers’ associations. In the months ahead, outreach will extend to various commodity groups, trade associations and farmworker advocates. 

In 2020, investigators in the division’s Southeast region found violations in 78 percent of the more than 280 investigations they completed of agricultural employers. These investigations found that the employers owed more than $2.7 million to more than 4,400 employees, and led the division to assess more than $3 million in civil money penalties. During the same period, the division debarred seven Southeast growers and farm labor contractors from eligibility to participate in the H-2A temporary labor certification agricultural guest worker program. In addition, the department liquidated more than $250,000 in employer surety bonds to secure back wages owed to workers.

Federal law empowers the division to suspend, revoke or withhold renewal of farm labor certificates for contractors that commit multiple violations under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA) or that fail to comply with a final order requiring the payment of a civil money penalty for a violation.

Employers are encouraged to review the MSPA eligible farm labor contractor list and the H-2A debarment list prior to contracting for labor.

The Wage and Hour Division offers multiple compliance assistance resources to provide employers the information they need to comply with the law. A toll-free helpline at 866-487-9243 can provide more information about MSPA, H-2A and other laws enforced by the division.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor

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