Although society depends heavily on agricultural workers to monitor the quality of livestock and produce, studies indicate that this industry has experienced a significant decline in employment over the last several years. Without this crucial foundation of cultivation and nutrition, people would be forced to rely solely on manmade products for sustenance. To encourage growth in this sector and preserve local food supplies, there are some basic protections in place for agricultural workers in the United States.
Environmental Safety and Education
Due to strict regulations regarding the use and handling of pesticides, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency enforces a Worker Protection Standard for agricultural workers who handle these materials. Designed to minimize exposure to pesticides and increase safety in the workplace. The WPS also extends to employees who work in greenhouses, forests and nurseries and includes provisions such as:
• Mandatory training for handling pesticides and clearly posted safety information for employees
• Restriction of applications that threaten other individuals
• Notification to employees when a specific area has been treated
• A large supply of decontamination products like soap and water
• Transportation to a medical facility in the event of injury or poison
• Proper equipment for workers who are required to enter a prohibited area
• Printed product labels that define intervals of restricted entry
In addition, the EPA is responsible for recent efforts to increase education about pesticide-related health care and treatments. With more than three million people working with pesticides each day, this initiative is committed to providing effective treatments for agricultural workers who are suffering from symptoms of exposure. Most agricultural businesses are required to comply with these standards to continue operating.
Labor Standards and Workers Rights
Another special protection that covers agricultural workers is the Fair Labor Standards Act, which works hand in hand with the Department of Labor to enforce wage minimums and labor regulations. According to the FLSA, an agricultural employee is entitled to at least the federal minimum wage regardless of the payment schedule. Furthermore, any housing or transportation provided by an employer must be safe and sanitary. Employers are also required to keep a written record of earnings and deductions and a statement of workplace conditions. Recordkeeping requirements should be complete and accurate at all times and include:
• Full name, birth date and gender
• Address and social security number
• Occupation and total of hours each day
• Standard hourly rate and frequency of payment
• Total earnings and date of payment
However, keep in mind that there are a few exemptions when it comes to coverage from the FLSA. For example, agricultural workers do not have to receive overtime payments if they exceed 40 hours within a week. FLSA requirements also don’t apply to immediate family members and employees whose main focus is the production of livestock.
Seasonal Employment Laws
Since many forms of agriculture are seasonal operations, the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act outlines specific criteria for wages, housing, transportation and disclosure. To operate legally as a farm contractor, you must register with the U.S. Department of Labor. The Wage and Hour Division then compiles a list of current certificate holders, as well as the duties they are authorized to perform. A separate list is used to keep track of individuals and corporations who are no longer permitted to operate as a farm labor contractor. Luckily, application materials are conveniently available to agricultural workers online in several different languages.
Despite the development of high-tech electronics and automated services, livestock and produce will always be a necessity as society continues to grow and evolve. If you own a farm or are interested in becoming an agricultural employee, take advantage of the special protections provided by the government. In the end, you will spend more time enjoying the fruits of your labor and less time worrying about the security of your livelihood.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.