The Migrant and Seasonal
Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA) safeguards most
migrant and seasonal agricultural workers in their interactions
with farm labor contractors, agricultural employers,
agricultural associations, and providers of migrant housing.
However, some farm labor contractors, agricultural employers,
agricultural associations, and providers of migrant housing are
exempt from MSPA under limited circumstances.
Basic Provisions and Requirements
The MSPA requires farm labor
contractors, agricultural employers, and agricultural
associations who recruit, solicit, hire, employ, furnish,
transport, or house agricultural workers, as well as providers
of migrant housing, to meet certain minimum requirements in
their dealings with migrant and seasonal agricultural workers.
These requirements include:
Farm labor contractor registration:
Farm labor contractors (and any employee who
performs farm labor contracting functions) must register with
the Department of Labor before recruiting, soliciting, hiring,
employing, furnishing, or transporting any migrant or seasonal
agricultural worker. Agricultural employers and associations
(and their employees) need not register as farm labor
agricultural employer or association using the services of a
farm labor contractor must first verify the registration status
of the farm labor contractor. This process includes determining
that the contractor is properly authorized for all activities he
or she will undertake. To verify registration status call
Employment relationship: Under certain
circumstances, the Department of Labor may determine that an
agricultural employer or association that uses the services of a
farm labor contractor is a joint employer of the agricultural
workers furnished by the farm labor contractor. In joint
employment situations, the agricultural employer or association
is equally responsible with the farm labor contractor for
compliance with employment-related MSPA obligations, such as the
proper payment of wages.
migrant and seasonal day-haul worker must receive a written
disclosure at the time of recruitment that describes the terms
and conditions of his or her employment. When offering
employment, the employer must provide such disclosure to all
seasonal workers upon request. The disclosure must be written in
the worker's language. The employer must also post in a
conspicuous place at the job site a poster setting forth the
rights and protections that MSPA affords workers. A housing
provider must post or present to each worker a statement of the
terms and conditions of occupancy.
Recordkeeping: Each farm labor
contractor, agricultural employer, or association that employs
any agricultural worker must maintain payroll records for each
worker showing the basis on which wages were paid, the number of
piecework units earned, the number of hours worked, the total
pay for each pay period, the amounts and reasons for any
deductions, and the net pay.
The employer must provide all
workers with these itemized statements and must preserve these
records for three years. If a farm labor contractor is
performing the payroll function, the contractor must provide a
copy of the pay records to the person to whom the workers are
furnished (e.g., agricultural employer or association), and that
person must keep the records for three years. No farm labor
contractor, agricultural employer, or association may knowingly
provide false or misleading information to a worker about
employment or the terms and conditions of employment.
Wages, Supplies, and
Working Arrangements: Each person
employing agricultural workers must pay all wages owed when due.
Farm labor contractors, agricultural employers, and associations
are prohibited from requiring workers to purchase goods or
services solely from such contractor, employer, or association,
or any person acting as an agent for such a person. In addition,
no farm labor contractor, agricultural employer, or association
may violate the terms of the working arrangement without
Safety and Health of Housing:
Each person who owns or controls housing provided to migrant
agricultural workers must ensure that the facility complies with
the federal and state safety and health standards covering that
housing. Migrant housing may not be occupied until it has been
inspected and certified to meet these safety and health
standards. The certification of occupancy must be posted at the
Transportation Safety: Each vehicle
used to transport migrant or seasonal agricultural workers must
be properly insured and operated by a properly licensed driver.
Each such vehicle must also meet federal and state safety
Employer Protections: Farm labor contractors must comply with
the terms of any written agreement they make with an
agricultural employer or association.
The Wage and Hour Division of the Employment Standards
Administration enforces MSPA. During a MSPA investigation, Wage
and Hour investigators may enter and inspect premises (including
vehicles and housing), review and transcribe payroll and other
records, and interview employers and employees.
The MSPA provides migrant
agricultural workers and day-haul seasonal agricultural workers
the right to receive written notice of the terms and conditions
of their employment when recruited; it provides seasonal workers
the right to receive such notification upon the worker's
request. The MSPA also requires employers of migrants and
seasonal agricultural workers to adhere to the disclosed terms
and conditions of employment. Certain exemptions and exclusions
apply to these provisions.
The MSPA also gives migrant and
seasonal agricultural workers the right to file a complaint with
the Wage and Hour Division, file a private lawsuit under the Act
(or cause a complaint or lawsuit to be filed), or testify or
cooperate with an investigation or lawsuit in other ways without
being intimidated, threatened, restrained, coerced, blacklisted,
discharged, or discriminated against in any manner.
More detailed information,
including explanatory brochures and regulatory and
interpretative materials, may be obtained from the
Wage and Hour
Division’s Web site or by contacting your local Wage and Hour
Division office. Information about farm labor contractor
applications is available from the nearest State Workforce
Agency office (1-866-4-USA-DOL) or your Wage and Hour Division
office. For additional compliance assistance, contact the Wage
and Hour Division help line at 1-866-4USWAGE.
Penalties and Sanctions
Violations of MSPA may result in
civil money penalties, back wage assessments, and revocations of
certificates of registration. Violations may also result in
civil or criminal actions instituted by the Department of Labor
against any person found in violation of the Act. Civil money
penalties up to $1,000 may be assessed for each violation.
Criminal conviction for first time violators may result in one
year in prison and a $1,000 fine; repeat convictions can result
in up to three years in prison and $10,000 in fines. In
addition, individuals whose MSPA rights have been violated may
seek civil money damages in federal court.