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Understanding Wage and Hour Requirements for agricultural employers.

The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL DOL - Display Oriented Language. Subsystem of DOCUS. Sammet 1969, p.678. ) Wage and Hour Division enforces three separate and distinct federal laws establishing minimally acceptable labor standards for wages and working conditions that may impact agricultural employers or associations.

These labor standards are set forth in the Fair Labor Standards Act Fair Labor Standards Act or Wages and Hours Act, passed by the U.S. Congress in 1938 to establish minimum living standards for workers engaged directly or indirectly in interstate commerce, including those involved in production of goods bound  (minimum wage, overtime pay, child labor child labor, use of the young as workers in factories, farms, and mines. Child labor was first recognized as a social problem with the introduction of the factory system in late 18th-century Great Britain.  and recordkeeping requirements), the Migrant mi·grant  
1. One that moves from one region to another by chance, instinct, or plan.

2. An itinerant worker who travels from one area to another in search of work.

 and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (vehicle safety, housing safety and health, disclosure of wages and working conditions, farm labor contractor registration and other requirements), and OSHA OSHA
Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a branch of the US Department of Labor responsible for establishing and enforcing safety and health standards in the workplace.
 Field Sanitation (drinking water drinking water

supply of water available to animals for drinking supplied via nipples, in troughs, dams, ponds and larger natural water sources; an insufficient supply leads to dehydration; it can be the source of infection, e.g. leptospirosis, salmonellosis, or of poisoning, e.g.
, toilets and hand-washing for field workers).

This article will explain the very basic provisions of these multi-faceted laws but if more information is desired, please call the Department of Labor's toll-free help line at 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243). Information also is available on the Internet at

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA FLSA Fair Labor Standards Act
FLSA Fedora Legacy Security Advisory

Virtually all employees in agriculture are covered by the FLSA since they produce goods for interstate commerce interstate commerce

In the U.S., any commercial transaction or traffic that crosses state boundaries or that involves more than one state. Government regulation of interstate commerce is founded on the commerce clause of the Constitution (Article I, section 8), which
. There are some exemptions, which exempt certain employees from the minimum wage provisions, the overtime pay provisions or both.

Employees that work in agriculture, as defined in the FLSA, are exempt from the overtime pay provisions. Thus, they do not have to be paid time and one-half their regular rates of pay for hours worked in excess of 40 in a single work week.

The FLSA's definition of agriculture excludes work performed on a farm that is not incidental to or in conjunction with such farmer's farming operation. It also excludes operations performed off a farm if performed by those employed by someone other than the farmer whose agricultural products are being processed.

Any agricultural employer who did not use more than 500 "man days" of agricultural labor in any calendar quarter of the preceding calendar year is exempt from the minimum wage and overtime pay provisions of the FLSA for the current calendar year. A "man day" is defined as any day during which an employee performs agricultural work for at least one hour.

Although exempt from the overtime requirements of the FLSA, agricultural employees must be paid no less than the minimum wage--currently $5.15 per hour. There are numerous restrictions on the employment of minors who are less than 16 years of age, particularly in occupations declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor. Substantial civil money penalties are prescribed for violations of the monetary and child labor provisions of the law. The FLSA also requires that specified records be kept.

The coverage provisions and scope of state laws and regulations may vary significantly with that of the FLSA. Please consult with the appropriate State Department of Labor or visit

The Migrant & Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA MSPA Mystery Shopping Providers Association
MSPA Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act
MSPA Maryland School Psychologists' Association
MSPA Minnesota School Psychologists Association
MSPA Massachusetts School Psychologists Association

The Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA) protects migrant and seasonal agricultural workers by establishing employment standards related to wages, housing, transportation, disclosures and recordkeeping. MSPA also requires farm labor contractors to register with the (DOL). A Farm Labor Contractor is someone who, for money or other valuable consideration paid or promised to be paid, recruits, solicits, hires, employs, furnishes or transports migrant and/or seasonal agricultural workers or, provides housing to migrant agricultural workers. Agricultural employers, agricultural associations and their employees are not included in the term.

Certain persons and organizations, such as small businesses, some seed and tobacco operations, labor unions labor union: see union, labor. , and their employees, are exempt from the Act.

Before performing any farm labor contracting activity, a farm labor contractor must register with DOL and obtain a certificate of registration. A farm labor contractor must be specifically authorized au·thor·ize  
tr.v. au·thor·ized, au·thor·iz·ing, au·thor·iz·es
1. To grant authority or power to.

2. To give permission for; sanction:
 to provide housing or transportation to migrant or seasonal agricultural workers prior to providing the housing or transportation. Persons employed by farm labor contractors to perform farm labor contracting activities must also register with DOL.

Each person or organization that owns or controls a facility or real property used for housing migrant workers A migrant worker is someone who regularly works away from home, if they even have a home.[]

Although the United Nations' use of this term overlaps with 'foreign worker', the use of the term within the United States is more specific.
 must comply with federal and state safety and health standards. A written statement of the terms and conditions of occupancy must be posted at the housing site where it can be seen or be given to the workers.

Agricultural associations, agricultural employers, and farm labor contractors must assure that vehicles used or caused to be used by a farm labor contractor, agricultural employer, or agricultural association to transport workers are properly insured, are operated by licensed drivers, and meet federal and state safety standards Safety standards are standards designed to ensure the safety of products, activities or processes, etc. They may be advisory or compulsory and are normally laid down by an advisory or regulatory body that may be either voluntary or statutory. .

Agricultural associations, agricultural employers, and farm labor contractors must inform migrant and seasonal agricultural workers about prospective employment, including the work to be performed, wages to be paid, the period of employment, whether state workers' compensation workers' compensation, payment by employers for some part of the cost of injuries, or in some cases of occupational diseases, received by employees in the course of their work.  or state unemployment insurance will be provided.

OSHA Field Sanitation

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 was enacted to assure safe and healthful health·ful
1. Conducive to good health; salutary.

2. Healthy.

healthful·ness n.
 working conditions for working men and women. In 1987, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), U.S. agency established (1970) in the Dept. of Labor (see Labor, United States Department of) to develop and enforce regulations for the safety and health of workers in businesses that are engaged in interstate  issued regulations establishing minimum standards for field sanitation in covered agricultural settings. Authority for enforcing these field sanitation standards in most states has been delegated to the Wage and Hour Division.

In general, the field sanitation standards apply to any agricultural establishment employing 11 or more workers on any one day during the previous 12 months, to perform "hand labor." "Hand labor" includes hand-cultivation, hand-weeding, hand-planting, and hand-harvesting of vegetables, nuts, fruits, seedlings, or other crops, including mushrooms, and the hand-packing of produce in the field into containers, whether performed on the ground, on moving machinery, or in a shed.

Covered agricultural employers must provide potable potable /pot·a·ble/ (po´tah-b'l) fit to drink.

Fit to drink; drinkable.


fit to drink.
 drinking water, suitably cool and in sufficient amounts, dispensed in single-use cups or by fountains, located so as to be readily accessible to all employees.

Covered agricultural employers must provide one toilet and handwashing facility for every 20 employees, located within a quarter-mile walk, or if not feasible, at the closest point of vehicular access. Pre-moistened towelettes, once allowed by some state regulators, cannot be substituted for handwashing facilities. Toilets and hand-washing facilities are not required for employees who do field work for three hours or less each day, including travel to and from work.

Employers must maintain such facilities in accordance with public health sanitation practices, including upkeep of water quality through daily change (or more often if necessary); toilets clean, kept sanitary, and operational; handwashing facilities refilled with potable water as necessary and kept clean, sanitary, and safe; and proper disposal of wastes from the facilities.

James Mooney James Mooney (1861-1921) was a notable anthropologist who lived for several years among the Cherokee. He was born at Richmond, Indiana. In 1885 he became connected with the Bureau of American Ethnology at Washington, D.C. He compiled a tribal list containing 3,000 titles.  

North East Regional

Agriculture Specialist

Joseph McKeefery

Wage & Hour Investigotor
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Title Annotation:labor relations
Author:Mooney, James; McKeefery, Joseph
Publication:Mushroom News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2006
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