Farmworker Protection Rule Webinar

Our friends at the National Council of Agricultural Employers have let us know about a webinar for the New Farmworker Protection Rule. This rule has some huge impacts on the H-2A employment community. If you’re interested please see the information below.


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Farmworker Protection Final Rule Webinar

Good morning, 
The Department of Labor (DOL) announced today that it will host a webinar to review their recently published Farmworker Protection Final Rule on May 23, 2024 at 3:00 PM ET. The webinar will last approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes. Registration is not required, however attendance will be capped at 1000. The webinar will be posted to their site at a later undisclosed date. 
As a reminder, the Final Rule will become effective June 28 and OFLC will begin accepting applications subject to the provisions of this rule on August 29.
We encourage you to save the webinar access information to your calendar so you can secure your spot in the webinar. 
Thursday, May 23, 2024
3:00 PM | (UTC-04:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada) | 1 hr 30 minsJoin from the meeting link:
https://usdol.webex.com/usdol/j.php?MTID=ma26d3026be80383b09fadbfafa063487Join by meeting number:
Meeting number (access code): 2828 054 0956
Meeting password: H2ARule2024Join by phone:
1-877-465-7975 US Toll Free
1-210-795-0506 US TollJoin from a video system or application:
Dial 28280540956@usdol.webex.com

Heat Illness – A HOT Topic

Okay… I’ll never be a comedian with that kind of material….

Today OSHA announced its continued targeting of agriculture for its efforts in preventing injuries and illnesses from heat in both indoor and outdoor settings. In the press release linked below, OSHA has said it will be focusing a lot of outreach and enfacement on the agriculture sector and particularly in areas where a high number of H-2A workers are employed.

OSHA has been working on a Heat Injury and Illness Enforcement rule for nearly two years. Last week Acting Labor Secretary told a Congressional committee the agency intends to have a draft rule published later this year. It seems this will be the second summer in a row that OSHA will be inspecting and enforcing heat issues without a proper rulemaking

What does that mean for us as cotton ginners? That’s still a bit unclear. The first Summer OSHA had a focus on heat injury and illnesses the region to our west inspected 13 cotton gins in Mississippi. None of the gins that were visited had full inspections and all had some version of a plan for heat illnesses and injuries. With the increased focus on H-2A it may change the dynamic a bit.

Last fall, OSHA held a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Advisory (SBREFA) Panel The SBREFA panel included two cotton ginners.. one from Texas and Wes Morgan from North Carolina. Many of the small businesses that participated in the panel said similar things…particularly those in the South. Employers understand heat as we have mostly grown up in it. They take steps to make sure new employees are properly acclimatized and they provide PLENTY of water rest and shade.

At this point (even given all that has been done in the past) our advice is to visit OSHA’s heat illness and injury page and review the materials, post the posters and distribute the handouts to your employees as it begins to get warm this summer. That page can be found here: www.osha.gov/heat

TODAY’S OSHA PRESS RELEASE CAN BE FOUND HERE

Administrative and Executive Overtime Exemption Just Got Harder

Last week, the Biden administration announced changes to the Wage and Hour rules regarding exemptions from overtime. Many employers put administrative and executive type employees on salary and expect them to be exempt from overtime. Salaried doesn’t necessarily mean they are exempt on its own. These new rules will make that exemption a good bit harder to take and could significantly affect our members.

As mentioned above just because you pay an employee a salary it doesn’t mean that they are automatically exempted from overtime. It is possible to pay someone overtime when they are on salary but that is beyond the scope of this article.

The most common “misclassification” violation we have seen in gins over the years is claiming an employee is exempt from overtime when they are not. In order for the executive or administrative employee to be exempt from overtime they must meet two things. The first is the duties of the job must meet the exempt duties and they must be paid above a certain amount on a salary basis. The duties have not changed and can be found in the Fact Sheets HERE.

What has changed is the minimum weekly salary that these employees must be paid in order to qualify even if they meet the duties of executive, or administrative work. Beginning July 1, 2024, employees must make $844 per week or $43,888 per year and starting January 1, 2025, employees must make $1,128 per week or $58,656 per year. The next change will be determined by the department by a formula by July,1 2027.

What does this mean? Many gins use the executive or administrative exemption for key office and gin employees. Careful consideration of these new pay levels in combination with the duties found in the Fact Sheet 17 linked above must be given. It is very easy to mis-classify a worker as exempt when they’re not and this rule makes it that much harder.

Wage and Hour’s Page on New Rule

You can find information on paying a non-exempt worker a salary. It can be done but it takes some planning. Search the internet for “salaried non-exempt” or “calculate overtime for salaried employee” and you’ll find a lot of articles by attorneys and HR professionals on how to navigate those waters.

DSF

H-2A Worker Protections Rule Dropped

Last Friday, the Department of Labor dropped the “Improving Protections for Workers in Temporary Agricultural Employment in the United States” Rule. This 600 page document outlines a number of significant changes to, primarily, the H-2A program that will impact these employers in a big way.

I have not had the pleasure of reading the whole 600 page document but the DoL has consolidated it to a website with links to various parts of the rule and tools to help employers. I will outline just a couple that will make your blood boil just a bit.

Immediate effectiveness of AEWR adjustments
The Adverse Effect Wage Rule (AEWR) is adjusted every year. The new AEWR is normally published in mid to late December with an effective date about the first of the new year… normally 14 days before it takes effect. The new rule makes the new AEWR effective immediately upon publishing. This means no time for the employer to prepare for the new wage or try to get finished up before the new wage takes effect. i.e. no warning.

Mandatory Disclosure of all recruiters
The new rule mandates that all recruiters for an H-2A employer must be disclosed in the documents when applying for the workers. We can only assume this is the beginning to crack down on illegal extortion some recruiters were making in foreign countries in order to recruit workers.

Anti-Retaliation Measures (Pro Union Measures)
It’s always been illegal to retaliate against workers for sticking up for their rights but this goes many steps beyond that. It requires employers to open their housing and gathering places to anyone the workers ‘invite’ in. This means you may not have total control over your own property since your housing may be on your premises.
The rule also adds anti-retaliation rules for employers doing almost ANYTHING to stop or try to convince workers not to unionize or “collectively protect themselves”.

There are many many more but this article is already too long. Please follow the Link below to the DoL’s page. You will find links there to the many aspects of the new rule and employer tools for compliance.

It is our expectation that this rule will be sued before it goes into effect but we wanted you to be aware of these changes as many gins that us the H-2A program will be making arrangements soon. Your agents or attorneys are scrambling to make sense of this HUGE and unnecessary rule. I am also attaching the National Council of Ag Employers response to the rule. MORE TO COME.

https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/agriculture/h2a/final-rule

Gin School Coming to Tifton

In case you weren’t aware, the 2024 Mid-South / Southeast Gin School will be held in Tifton, GA. This is the first time in a long time that a gin school has been held at a location away from the Gin Lab. In the mid-90’s an abbreviated gin school was held in the Southeast as so many gins were being built or upgraded.

We’re pleased to be working with the National Cotton Ginners Association to bring the school to the Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and University of Georgia Campuses. Most of the classes will be held at ABAC with some classes and events being held at the micro-gin on the University of Georgia Campus.

We hope you will help us make this a great school. More information can be found on the flyer below and/or by visiting the Gin School website.
https://www.cotton.org/ncga/ginschool/index.cfm

Ginners of the Year

Well, we’re a little behind in congratulating this year’s ginners of the year. We actually have two people to congratulate for this year. The Southeast Ginner of the Year for 2023 is Drake Perrow of Cameron, SC. We also have the National Ginner of the Year in our region and that recipient is Wes Morgan.

Drake Perrow was presented his award at the Southern Southeastern Annual Meeting in Hilton Head, SC back in January. Wes received his award at the National Cotton Ginners Annual Meeting held with the National Cotton Council meeting in February in Orlando, FL.


A very good article on all the National Ginners Award winners, including Wes Morgan’s award can be found here:
https://www.cottongrower.com/cotton-production/ginning/morgan-whitelock-honored-by-national-cotton-ginners-association/#:~:text=Wes%20Morgan%2C%20a%20veteran%20North,organization’s%202023%2D24%20Charles%20C.

Drake Perrow is Partner and General Manager of Cameron Cotton and Seed in Cameron, SC. Drake’s father and uncle bought the small operation in the 70’s and Drake was brought in as a partner.

We are so proud of our members. We have great leadership in the Southeast and it shows in these two Ginners of the Year.