Even though this year has barely gotten under way for most gins, the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor has started making its presence felt in much of our region. We have recently received reports of virtual investigations in NC, SC and AL. We understand an in-person investigation is scheduled but has yet to be conducted in SC.
This is the second year of a regional cotton gin emphasis program. Association staff has met with Wage and Hour staff in both NC and SC recently. It was a very constructive meeting. They provided the documents linked at the bottom of this article for ginners resources. We can only assume that this emphasis program will continue until a low number of violations (even very minor ones) are found. This is the first time that NC has been involved. It is unknown how many gins will be inspected in any given state but last year 10-15 gins across the region were visited.
Although the Wage and Hour division enforces many laws, the main things they tend to look at in gins are the Fair Labor Standards Ac (FLSA) dealing with overtime and minimum wage; Migrant and Seasonal Worker Protection Act (MSPA) dealing with the promises made to and housing conditions of migrant workers. They also deal with the H-2A program from the working contract terms and conditions of H-2A workers. As mentioned before the H-2A program is fraught with pitfalls and should only be used as a last resort.
Recently Wage and Hour has been tasked with the proper implementation of the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA). The FFCRA requires certain measures be taken when employees are exposed or have covid. This expanded paid sick leave and emergency expanded Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provisions have been discussed in previous articles. The main thing to understand is that under current law there are times (outlined on the linked poster that you should have up) that you will need to send employees home and pay them for up to 2 weeks at 40 hrs per week.
Most of the investigations at gins by Wage and Hour are because of a programmed or random inspection program. If there is a complaint of an employer not doing anything to prevent the spread of Covid, Wage and Hour and OSHA are showing up together according to recent reports by our friends at Fisher and Phillips. This is just one of the reasons we have been pushing this so hard earlier in the year.
If you get a visit, please let us know. We would like to know where they are working and how many gins are being visited (virtually or otherwise). We can help answer some of the more common questions and help you know when it’s time to get the attorney on speed dial.
The following documents were recently provided by Wage and Hour Community Outreach staff and we were asked to distribute.
Fact Sheet 40 – Child Labor (Agriculture)
Fact Sheet 43 – Child Labor (non-Agriculture)
Fact Sheet 26 – H-2A
Families First Coronavirus Recovery Act (FFCRA) POSTER
FFCRA Employee Rights