In a disturbing press release earlier this week, the Gulf Coast office of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour division announced a muli-year initiative to target agricultural employers in the region. Specifically the press release discussed the cotton ginning industry in Mississippi but given that ginning is conducted across the belt and that the Gulf Coast office is in Birmingham, we cannot assume that this initiative is going to be limited to Mississippi.
Southeastern Cotton Ginners Association has worked hard over the years to educate our members regarding the requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act that workers be provided proper pay, overtime, and adequate housing under the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA). To that end, we provide the MSPA poster free to all members as well distribution of a guide that has been very helpful navigating the complicated world of FLSA and MSPA requirements.
We’ve already seen gins in SC be inspected in the past few weeks and we totally expect more of our members to see inspectors in coming weeks or months. So, what are some of the more common violations that are found? What can we do to help ourselves to prepare for a possible inspection. Overtime, bonuses, housing and paperwork seem to be hit more than anything else. Simple things like making sure the MSPA poster is on the wall along with the current minimum wage poster ($7.25/hr) should be checked. If you recruit workers from other parts of the country, you must disclose the terms of employment on a WH-516 or equivalent. Make sure you are paying bonuses based on a percentage of gross wage not as a flat amount or part of hourly wages. These lead to overtime issues. Don’t promise anything you won’t be able to deliver on. Get your housing inspected and maintain it by checking on it often. It is nearly impossible to comply with all the housing regulations but do your best. These are all things you need to be checking on sooner than later.
Below you will find links to a number of things you will find helpful in a self audit. I know this is a very busy time for you but it will pay for you to take a few minutes to go over the Guide and documents below.
NC Guide To Housing Inspections
This guide is from the NC Dept of Labor and while targeting NC employers, it is a good guide to the housing requirements in MSPA for all states.
NC Housing Checklist – This document goes with info above.
Whenever you recruit a Migrant Worker, the terms and conditions of employment must be supplied to the workers ahead of time on a WH516 or equivalent. What this means is that you can supply the worker these terms and conditions but you can use your own forms and ways of doing it as long as it contains at least the info on the WH-516.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about these issues and how we may be able to help you navigate this complex issue.