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Migrant & Seasonal Agricultural Workers Protection Act (MSPA)

Written by Staff Writer

Migrant and seasonal agricultural workers are protected under this act in terms of wages, recordkeeping, transportation, housing, and disclosures. This act, administered by the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division, is especially important to agricultural employers, farm labor contractors, and any other agricultural organizations that hire migrant or seasonal workers. The Wage and Hour Division maintains a list of registered certificate holders, including the certificate's expiration date.

The Wage and Hour Division defines a farm labor contractor as "a person (other than an agricultural employer or an agricultural association) who receives a fee or other valuable consideration for performing farm labor contracting activities"; farm labor contracting activity as "recruiting, soliciting, hiring, employing, furnishing, or transporting of any migrant or season agricultural workers"; a migrant agricultural worker as "a person employed in agricultural work of a seasonal or other temporary nature who is required to be absent overnight from his or her permanent place of residence"; and a seasonal agricultural worker as "a person employed in agricultural work of a seasonal or other temporary nature who is not required to be absent overnight from his or her permanent place of residence".

Before an employer can hire a farm labor contractor, four things must be completed:

  • Contractors must obtain a certificate of registration from the US Department of Labor, which is detailed more below
  • Contractors must provide written terms and conditions of the potential position
  • Contractors must create and preserve payroll records, providing each employee with a statement of earnings
  • Any housing or transportation arrangement must be discussed and agreed a upon

Employers of those this act protects must also comply with these wage, recordkeeping, transportation, housing, and disclosure laws:

  • At the time of recruitment or during the offer of employment to a seasonal or migrant worker, the employer must explain the terms and conditions of employment in writing
  • At the worksite, have worker protections laws posted and ensure the worker is aware of his or her rights
  • Provide workers with an itemized statement of earnings and deductions
  • Pay each worker when wages are due
  • If housing is provided, it must comply with federal and state health and safety standards, and the house cannot be occupied until it has a certificate of approval posted on site
  • If transportation is provide, the worker must be licensed properly and the vehicle must meet federal and state insurance requirement standards
  • Obey working arrangement terms
  • The payroll record of each employee should be kept for three years
  • Employer is not allowed to force workers to purchase services or good from contractor, employer, or associate
  • Employer and employee must not break the contract without due cause
  • Employer is subjected to inspections from Wage and Hour Division

If any MSPA protected worker believes an employer is violating any of the above rights, he or she can file a complaint to the Wage and Hour Division, file a lawsuit, or testify to a lawsuit without fear of being discriminated again for such an action.

Application requirements

Before performing anything that qualifies as a "farm labor contracting activities", a Certificate of Registration must be obtained, which can be done by completing the Form WH-530. The Form WH-540 can be found online or at a local state workforce agency.

Once the application is submitted, the applicant must wait for approval and obtain his or her Farm Labor Contractor (FLC) or Farm Labor Contractor Employee (FLCE) Certificate of Registration before engaging in labor contractor activities.

The application form has two addresses it can be submitted too. For resident of Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, American Samoa, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, or Wyoming, the application should be sent to:

U.S. Department of Labor
Wage Hour Division
Western Farm Labor Certificate Processing
90 Seventh Street Suite 13-100
San Francisco, CA 94103

Residents elsewhere in the United States should send their applications to:

first class mail, certified mail, and USPS Express Mail to:

U.S. Department of Labor
Wage Hour Division
Southeast Farm Labor Certificate Processing
P. O. Box 56447
Atlanta, GA 30343-0447

Send all other ground and express courier services to:

U.S. Department of Labor
Wage Hour Division
Southeast Farm Labor Certificate Processing
233 Peachtree Street NE, Suite 610
Atlanta, GA 30303

Questions regarding the specifics of the WH-530 form should be directed to a Certification Team member, of which there are two. Those who fall geographically under California Certification Team should call (415) 625-7700. Those who fall geographically under the Atlanta Certification Team should contract (404) 893-6030. If you are unsure which team you fall under, you can find out on the Wage and Hour Division page.

More information on the form can be found on the Wage and Hour Division website.

Fair Labor Standards Act

Another act relevant to migrant and seasonal workers is the Fair Labor Standards Act, which exempts farm workers from overtime pay, but requires employers to pay minimum wage on farms that have seven or more full-time workers. This act also includes provisions for children, since youth under the age of 16 cannot work during school hours or perform certain dangerous jobs. Exceptions are made for children who work on small, family farms.

For more information about the Fair Labor Standards Acts overtime provisions, click here.

For more information about the Fair Labor Standards Acts minimum wage provisions, click here.

For more information about child labor laws, click here.

Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)

The Immigration and Nationality Act, a federal law, prevents employers from hiring anyone who is not a US citizen or hiring foreign workers on a temporary basis who are certified to work in the United State. It also obligates employers to fulfill certain requirements to these authorized alien workers. An employer must confirm the eligibility of potential employees with an I-9 form. Failure to submit a form for each employee and to keep it on record for at least a year may result in penalties.

The INA applies to non-U.S.-citizen temporary workers with H-2A visas. Employers who hire such employees must provide certification that there are not qualified U.S. workers willing and able to do the work.

For more information about the INA, you can visit the Immigration and Nationality Act page.

OSHA and Migrant Workers

On occasion, compliance workers from OSHA will conduct investigations about migrant labor conditions. As a regular course of business, Wage and Hour Division officers are presented with migrant workers health and safety conditions that may be in violation of OSHA standards. There is an open policy of exchange between these two agencies to facilitate fair employer-migrant worker relationships.

You can find interpretative guidance, forms, and fact sheets about labor laws that apply to seasonal farm workers on the MSPA website.