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What should I know about farmworker rights?

Authored By: GeorgiaLegalAid.org
Read this in: Spanish / Español

Farmworker rights in Georgia

Contents


Who are farmworkers?

Farmworkers are anyone who works on a farm or ranch in the United States. Farmworkers include:

  • Workers with temporary visas,

  • U.S. citizens,

  • Legal permanent residents, and 

  • Undocumented workers.

 

Some farmworkers are known as “migrant” workers. These workers travel a significant distance from their home to work on a farm or ranch. They often live in housing maintained by their employer. 

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What are the rights of all workers in the United States?

If you are working in the United States, you have rights. You have basic rights whether you are a citizen, permanent resident, have a visa, or are an undocumented worker. 

 

You have the right to:

  • Be paid fairly. This means:

    • You have the right to be paid for all of your work. If you are paid hourly, this means that every hour must be paid. You may also be entitled to overtime if you work more than 40 hours a week.

      • Even if you are paid by piece rate, your average earnings per hour should equal at least the federal minimum wage over the course of each pay period (normally a week). 

      • You have the right to be paid for time waiting in a field to start work and the time you spend traveling from field to field.

    • You have a right to earn at least the minimum wage.

    • You have the right to understand any deductions taken from your paycheck.

      • The grower has the right to deduct contributions to social security, federal and state taxes. Other deductions can be illegal, depending on the situation. Deductions for housing and food are not allowed unless the worker voluntarily says it's okay.

 

  • Be free from discrimination. Your employer cannot discriminate against you because of your:

    • Age,

    • Gender or sex,

    • Race,

    • National origin and ethnicity,

    • Color,

    • Religion,

    • Genetic information, or

    • Family history.

 

  • Be free from sexual harassment and sexual exploitation. It is illegal for an employer to sexually harass or exploit you. 

 

  • Have a healthy and safe workplace. 

    • You have the right to work in a safe environment. 

    • You also have the right to report unsafe working conditions. 

 

  • Request help from union, immigrant, and labor rights groups. 

    • You have the right to join with others to ask for better working conditions. 

 

  • Be free from retaliation for exercising your rights. Your employer cannot fire or punish you because you reported a violation of your rights. 

    • To protect yourself, consider contacting an immigration attorney or organization before you take action.

 

  • Workers’ compensation if you are injured on the job. Your immigration status does not bar you from getting workers’ compensation if you are injured on the job. 

 

  • Unemployment compensation. You may be eligible for unemployment, depending on your situation. 

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What other specific rights do I have as a farmworker?

As a farmworker, you also have the right to:

  • Written disclosures with job details. This disclosure is mandatory for migrant workers. Seasonal and local workers must also be given written information if you ask for it. This information must be given in the language you use the most and understand best. If you are a migrant worker, you must be given the following information in writing when you are offered the job:

    • where you will be employed

    • type of work that you will do

    • if there is a charge for transportation

    • housing and insurance arrangements (and any charges for either)

    • wage rate to be paid

    • the length of the job

    • whether there is a strike or other labor dispute going on

 

  • Posted information about your rights. Job information must be posted clearly at the work site and the housing where everyone is likely to see it. Growers and contractors must also put up a poster of farmworkers' rights at the work site where everyone can see it.

 

  • Safe transportation. You have the right to be transported in safe, properly insured vehicles driven by licensed drivers. For example, it is unsafe and illegal for a farmworker to be driven to the field in a truck that does not have enough seats for every worker.

 

  • A safe home. Camp housing is your home. You have a right to receive visitors where they live.

    • Housing Conditions. Persons who own or control housing for farmworkers must ensure that housing standards are met, including:

      • structurally sound housing

      • housing free from insects and rodents

      • beds for each person at least 3 feet apart and12 inches off the floor

      • lights that work and safe electrical wiring

      • sanitary toilets

      • safe drinking water and showers with a sufficient amount of hot and cold water

      • garbage collected at least twice a week

    • Housing Inspections. Whoever owns or controls farmworker housing must request that either federal or state authorities inspect the housing before you arrive.

    • Freedom to Leave. You are always free to leave the camp at any time. The grower, contractor or crew leader cannot make you stay at the housing or on the camp against your will. This is true even if you owe money to the crew leader or employer.

      • It is often illegal to be evicted for complaining about housing conditions. If you are being threatened with eviction, it would be a good idea to contact legal services or another attorney.

 

  • Refuse to enter a field until it is safe from pesticides. Pesticides are chemical poisons sprayed on crops to kill insects and weeds. They are dangerous because they are poisons. Pesticides can make you sick and in some cases, may cause death. It is illegal to spray while workers are in the field or to allow workers to work in areas just sprayed, unless you have special protections. You have the right to refuse to enter a field until it is safe (usually anywhere from 12-48 hours after spraying).

 

  • Water and restrooms in the field. Every employer with more than 11 farmworkers who work in the field for more than 3 hours at a time must provide within a quarter of a mile of the field:

    • Cool drinking water and cups (or a drinking fountain), and

    • Toilets and handwashing facilities.

 

  • Pay stubs. You must receive a written pay statement each time you are paid.

    • If the work is paid on a piece rate basis, you must be told in writing the number of pieces completed during the pay period.

    • If more than one person in your family works at the same place, each person must receive their payment and statement separately. This is required so each worker is able to tell if they are being paid properly.

    • The stub should show the following:

      • the grower's name

      • address

      • identification number for federal taxes

      • the worker's name and identification number

      • total number of hours worked

      • how much they're paying per hour

      • total wages earned

      • total deductions that were made

      • net pay

      • gross pay

  • Payment for transportation and visa-related costs. If you are a H-2A worker, you must also get:

    • Reimbursement for visa-related expenses you incur

    • Payment for your transportation, food and lodging

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Contents


What can I do if my rights are violated?

If your employer violates your rights or retaliates against you for reporting violations, you should contact an attorney. You may have a legal claim against your employer. The steps you must take to protect your rights will depend on the actions of your employer. An attorney will be able to assist you in protecting your rights.

  • For help in Fulton, Clayton, Cobb, Gwinnett, or DeKalb County, contact Atlanta Legal Aid. Fill out the Atlanta Legal Aid online intake application or call 404-524-5811 (main line), 404-657-9915 (GA Senior Legal Hotline), to see if you qualify for legal assistance.

  • If you live in any other Georgia county, contact the Georgia Legal Services Program for help. Access the GLSP online intake application or call 1-833-457-7529 to see if you qualify for legal assistance.

 

You can also contact the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hours division at 1-866-487-9243.

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Information

 

Legal help

  • For help in Fulton, Clayton, Cobb, Gwinnett, or DeKalb County, contact Atlanta Legal Aid. Fill out the Atlanta Legal Aid online intake application or call 404-524-5811 (main line), 404-657-9915 (GA Senior Legal Hotline), to see if you qualify for legal assistance.
  • If you live in any other Georgia county, contact the Georgia Legal Services Program for help. Access the GLSP online intake application or call 1-833-457-7529 to see if you qualify for legal assistance.
Last Review and Update: Dec 10, 2020
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