Labor Dept. reminds farm workers of their rights
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division is reminding agricultural workers in Southwest Florida that their rights are protected by the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s Field Sanitation Standard. Virtually all employees engaged in agriculture are covered by federal law because they produce goods for interstate commerce.
These laws affect those residents of Lehigh Acres who are working for area farm operations.
“The Labor Department is committed to enforcing labor standards that protect and enhance the welfare of the nation’s farmworkers,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “Through outreach, we are spreading the word to farm labor contractors and growers that they must pay their workers the wages they have earned.”
During this spring, Wage and Hour Division investigators will make unannounced visits to farms in South Florida to ensure that employers are following federal labor laws. Over the past year, investigators have been meeting with farm groups to inform them of their responsibilities regarding agricultural employees.
“Each employer is also responsible for ensuring workers’ health and safety,” added Secretary Solis. “Workers should not have to lose their lives or risk their health while working to provide for their families.”
The FLSA sets standards for minimum wage, overtime payments and limitations on child labor. The law allows, with restrictions, the employment of farmworkers between ages 12 and 16. There are no restrictions on workers age 16 and older employed in farm jobs. The FLSA prohibits the employment of most individuals under age 16 in hazardous occupations. Youths of any age may work at any time and perform any job on a farm owned or operated by their parents. Otherwise, individuals under age 12 may not be employed in farm activities.
Most agricultural employers, agricultural associations and farm labor contractors are subject to the MSPA, which protects migrant and seasonal agricultural workers by establishing employment standards related to wages, housing, transportation, disclosures and recordkeeping. The MSPA also requires farm labor contractors to register with the Labor Department. The department maintains a list of individuals or corporations whose authorization to operate as a farm labor contractor has been revoked. To determine whether a contractor has been declared ineligible, visit http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/statutes/mspa_debar.htm.
Field sanitation provisions of the OSH Act require covered employers to provide toilets, potable drinking water, hand-washing facilities and information regarding good hygiene practices.
For questions about laws administered by the Wage and Hour Division, call its district office in Miami at 305-596-9874 or call the division’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available online at http://www.dol.gov/whd.