ATLANTA – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division is continuing its multi-year 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 and industry stakeholders in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, are exploring methods to raise industry awareness and provide tools to increase compliance. In the months ahead, the division will complete investigations and provide outreach to workers and employers – and when necessary – leverage H-2A debarment and certificate revocations.
In 2021, investigators in the division’s Southeast Region found violations in 81 percent of the nearly 300 investigations they completed of agricultural employers. These investigations found that the employers owed more than $1.9 million to more than 4,000 employees and led the division to assess more than $1.7 million in civil money penalties. During that timeframe, 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.
“Compliance assistance and enforcement work hand-in-hand, and data supports the need for the division’s focus on both fronts,” said Wage and Hour Division Regional Administrator Juan Coria in Atlanta. “The Wage and Hour Division is committed to protecting workers who, like those in these cases, work hard to put food on America’s tables. When employers attempt to unlawfully increase their profits at the expense of the dignity, respect and – in some cases freedom – of workers, we will use every available tool to hold them accountable.”
The department encourages recruiters, labor contractors, growers, processors, distributors, wholesalers and retailers to join in this effort to protect workers and combat labor trafficking.
Federal law empowers the division to suspend, revoke or withhold renewal of farm labor certificates for contractors that commit violations under the Migrant Seasonal Protection Act. Employers are encouraged to review the ineligible farm labor contractor and H-2A debarment lists prior to contracting for labor. The Wage and Hour Division offers compliance assistance resources, including an agriculture compliance assistance toolkit, employers can access to get the information they need to comply with the law.
For information about MSPA, H-2A and other laws enforced by the division, contact the toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).