Final H-2A Farmworker Protection Rule Announced

Daniel CooperLabor


The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a final rule to strengthen protections for farmworkers. The rule targets vulnerability and abuses experienced by workers under the H-2A program. The H-2A program allows employers to hire temporary foreign agricultural workers. 

Among other things, the final rule:

  • Improves workers’ ability to engage in advocacy regarding their working conditions by expanding the range of activities protected by anti-retaliation provisions. The rule protects workers’ choice to engage in self-organization or concerted activities and to decline attending employer-sponsored “captive audience” meetings where employers discourage workers from joining unions or engage in other protected activities. The rule also allows workers to consult key service providers, such as legal service providers, and to meet with them in employer-furnished housing. Workers also may now invite and accept guests, including labor organizations, service providers and others, to their employer-furnished housing.
  • Clarifies that an employer only terminates a worker “for cause” when the worker either fails to comply with employer policies or fails to perform job duties satisfactorily after, in most cases, the transparent application of a system of progressive discipline. The rule establishes that for a worker to be terminated for cause, five conditions must be met, including a requirement that workers are either informed about or reasonably should have known the policy, rule or performance expectation unless the worker has engaged in egregious misconduct. 
  • Makes foreign labor recruitment more transparent. The rule imposes new disclosure requirements to improve foreign worker recruitment-chain transparency, provides additional information about the nature of the job opportunity and bolsters the department’s ability to protect workers from exploitation and abuse. The new provisions require employers to provide a copy of all agreements with any agent or recruiter they engage or plan to engage, disclose the name and location of any person or entity working for the recruiter who will solicit prospective H-2A workers, and disclose in the H-2A application the name, location and contact information of the workplace’s owners, operators and managers.
  • Ensures timely wage changes for H-2A workers. Returning to longstanding practice, the rule designates the effective date of updated adverse effect wage rates as of the date of publication in the Federal Register. This change safeguards fair compensation for workers under the H-2A program and addresses potential adverse effects on the wages and working conditions of similarly employed workers in the U.S. The rule would also require employers who fail to provide adequate notice to workers of a delay in their start date to pay workers the applicable rate for each day that work is delayed for up to 14 days.
  • Improves transportation safety. The final rule includes a seatbelt requirement to reduce the hazards associated with the transportation of farmworkers. If a vehicle is required by Department of Transportation regulations to be manufactured with seatbelts, the final rule prohibits the operation of these vehicles to transport workers under the H-2A program unless each occupant is wearing a seatbelt. 
  • Prevents labor exploitation and human trafficking. The rule clarifies that employers are prohibited from holding or confiscating a worker’s passport, visa or other identification documents. 
  • Ensures employer accountability. The final rule updates procedures for discontinuing employment services for employers that have failed to meet the Department of Labor’s requirements. It requires states to discontinue services to debarred employers. It also streamlines the procedures for applying debarment to a successor who carries forward a debarred company.

The final rule is effective on June 28, 2024. However, H-2A applications filed before Aug. 28, 2024, will be processed according to applicable federal regulations in effect as of June 27, 2024. Applications submitted on or after Aug. 29, 2024, will be processed in accordance with the provisions of the Farmworker Protection Rule.

More information about the rule is available in the Employment and Training Administration and Wage and Hour Division web pages.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor

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