Lea esto en español.ATLANTA – After recovering more than $2 million in back wages for nearly 3,000 workers in the Southeast agricultural industry in 2023 and assessing employers with more than $3.8 million in civil money penalties, the U.S. Department of Labor and its Wage and Hour Division is continuing its multi-year initiative to educate industry employers about compliance and workers about their legal protections under federal law. The division’s enforcement and outreach efforts in the Southeast are part of a national initiative to improve compliance in the agricultural industry.In 2023, investigators with the division’s Southeast Region identified violations in 90 percent of the approximately 240 completed investigations of agricultural employers. This was an increase from 2022, when the division’s Southeast investigators found violations in 85 percent of nearly 220 investigations. In addition, the division also debarred 8 Southeast growers and farm labor contractors in 2023 from participation in the H-2A agricultural guest worker program.“The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to protecting dedicated farm workers who put food on America’s tables,” said Wage and Hour Division Regional Administrator Juan Coria in Atlanta. “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 tool at our disposal to hold them accountable.”The division will host a free virtual Agricultural Seminar on March 28 from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST to provide guidance on federal requirements governing agricultural employment for growers, farmers, shippers, contractors, farm labor contractors, buyers and agricultural workers nationwide. Registration is required.The division will continue to partner with industry stakeholders to instill greater industry awareness and provide tools to improve compliance, with the goal of lowering the overall number and rate of violations that occur. As the growing season approaches, the division will conduct vigorous investigations, inform workers and employers of their rights and responsibilities, and act to prevent violations of federal programs used by employers to find temporary, seasonal and migrant workers to meet labor demands. “Our enforcement and educational efforts go hand-in-hand. When workers are aware of their rights and understand they have a channel to discuss their wage concerns with us without fear of retaliation, it makes it harder for wage theft to go unpunished,” Coria added. Federal law empowers the division to suspend, revoke or withhold renewal of farm labor certificates for contractors who commit violations under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. Employers are encouraged to review the MSPA registered farm labor contractor list and H-2A debarment list prior to contracting for labor. The division offers compliance assistance resources, including an agriculture compliance assistance toolkit, where employers can access 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 confidentially at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). The division can speak with callers in more than 200 languages, regardless of where a caller is from.

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