WASHINGTON (CN) – The Department of Labor has amended its regulations for the certification of seasonal agricultural workers and the enforcement of contracts with their employers. Changes include protections for U.S. workers, and an increase in wages.
The department also amends the regulations to provide for enhanced enforcement so workers are protected when employers fail to meet their obligations under the program.
The labor certification rules, which go into effect March 15, require employers to show documentation that they have followed appropriate procedures to bring seasonal agricultural workers into the country, instead of just allowing the employers to attest to it.
Other major changes include extending program benefits to similarly employed U.S. workers, prohibiting labor certification for worksites at which workers are on strike or locked out, reinstating the use of State Workforce Agencies to investigate U.S. workers who may be available for jobs, and establishing national electronic job registry to help growers find U.S. workers, and workers to find jobs. Additionally, the rules are meant to protect U.S. workers who are denied employment or laid off.
The regulations also return an average of a dollar an hour to worker wages, by going back to a pre-2008 standard, and allow both the Wage and Hour Division and Employment and Training Administration to keep employers with violations from getting certified. Civil penalties also have been raised.
Further important provisions require State Workforce Agencies inspections of employer-provided housing before a permit is issued, and employer-provided transportation to meet safety standards of transportation for most other agricultural workers. Employers also must get copies of work orders to employees before they leave home, and workers may not be moved from site to site in multiple areas of employment under one labor certification.
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