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Do you question your rights as a California farmworker?

You spend several hours a day in the hot sun working on a farm. Your manager or crew leader comes through, reminds you of quotas and tells you to pick up the pace. Hopefully, your crew leader also ensures that you take adequate breaks out of the sun, have clean, cool water to drink and are paid what you earned.

If your pay doesn't reflect the hours you put in, you may not believe you can complain because your employer hired you as a seasonal or migrant worker. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The federal Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers Protection Act of 1970 provides you with substantial protections against wage and hour violations. After all, you aren't donating your time. You expect fair payment for your time and effort.

How does the act protect your pay?

California's Wage and Hour Division enforces your rights under the act. It requires your employer to provide the following:

  • Information: When hired, you should receive information regarding your pay and working conditions in writing. If you don't speak English, your employer must provide you the information in a language you do speak.
  • Payment: As an agricultural worker, your pay must reflect all of the hours you worked. Even during times when you experience a delay in your start time or your work is interrupted for some reason, you should receive payment for all of the time you are at your job site. Your employer should provide you with an itemized pay stub each pay period indicating your earnings and any deductions.
  • Transportation fee: If your employer provides you with transportation to and from work, the vehicle in which you travel must meet current safety standards and insurance requirements. If you pay a fee for this service, you must receive notification of it prior to taking your position. You should not pay such a fee if the vehicle violates applicable standards and requirements.

What if your employer violates these rules?

Your employer can't prevent you from making a complaint for violations of the above rules. Understandably, you may fear retaliation or termination of your employment if you complain. However, if you experience issues that are enforced and regulated by the Wage and Hour Division, others may as well.

Fortunately, you don't have to go through the process alone. If you need help understanding your legal rights and options, contacting an attorney who regularly deals with wage and hour and other employment law issues could prove invaluable.

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