This page provides general information on labor laws that affect farm labor as well as links to laws and other sources of related information.
General Information on Labor Laws
Agriculture, like any other employment, is covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act which is enforced by enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor. For general information on labor laws enforced by the Department of Labor see Employment Law Guide: Laws, Regulations, and Technical Assistance Services. The Guide describes the statutes and regulations administered by the Department of Labor that affect businesses and workers. The Guide is designed mainly for those needing "hands-on" information to develop wage, benefit, safety and health, and nondiscrimination policies for businesses in general industry.
For a summary of the major laws and regulation enforced by the U.S. Department of Laborsee the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act Child Labor Provisions, the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA), and the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act.
State laws also apply to employment and in some cases the law setting the higher standards must be applied.
Immigration and Nationality Act - Eligibility, Verification, and Nondiscrimination
The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) includes provisions addressing employment eligibility, employment verification, and nondiscrimination.
Under the INA, employers may hire only persons who may legally work in the United States and aliens authorized to work in the U.S. The employer must verify the identity and employment eligibility of anyone to be hired, which includes completing the Employment Eligibility Verification Form (I-9). Employers must keep each I-9 on file for at least three years, or one year after employment ends, whichever is longer. Employers who fail to complete and/or retain the I-9 forms are subject to penalties. More detailed information and copies of the I-9 form may be obtained from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
The INA also protects U.S. citizens and aliens authorized to accept employment in the U.S. from discrimination in hiring or discharge on the basis of national origin and citizenship status. The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices enforces the antidiscrimination provisions.
Minimum Wage and Overtime Pay
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes standards for minimum wages and overtime pay. The FLSA requires employers of covered employees who are not otherwise exempt to pay these employees a minimum wage of not less than $7.25 an hour as of July 24, 2009. While virtually all employees engaged in agriculture are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act because they are associated with the production of goods for interstate commerce, there are exemptions from the minimum wage provisions, the overtime pay provisions, or both for certain agricultural employees. For more detailed information visit the U.S. Department of Labor.
Adverse Effects Wage Rates
Adverse effects wage rates are the minimum wage rates which the Department of Labor has determined must be offered and paid to U.S. and foreign workers by employers of nonimmigrant foreign agricultural workers (H2-A visa holders). Such employers must pay the higher of the AEWR, the applicable prevailing wage, or the statutory minimum wage as specified in the Code of Federal Regulations.