Labor Dept. Announces 2012 Allowable Charges for Temporary Agricultural Workers’ Meals, Lodging, Travel; Farm Labor Survey Now Semi-Annual
On March 2, 2012, the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration announced (PDF) allowable charges for 2012 that employers seeking H-2A agricultural workers may charge their workers when the employer provides three meals per day, and the maximum meal reimbursement a worker with receipts may claim. The Department also clarified overnight lodging costs as part of required subsistence.
Among the minimum benefits and working conditions the Department requires employers to offer their U.S. and H-2A workers are three meals a day or free and convenient cooking and kitchen facilities. Where the employer provides the meals, the job offer must state the charge, if any, to the worker for such meals. The notice states that the maximum allowable charge an employer may impose for providing three meals per day is $11.13, unless the Office of Foreign Labor Certification’s Certifying Officer approves a higher charge as authorized under the regulations.
The Department noted that the employer is responsible for providing, paying in advance, or reimbursing a worker for the reasonable costs of transportation and daily subsistence between the employer’s worksite and the place from which the worker comes to work for the employer, if the worker completes 50 percent of the work contract period, and return costs if a worker completes the contract. If a worker must travel to obtain a visa so that the worker may enter the United States to come to work for the employer, the employer must pay for the transportation and daily subsistence costs of that part of the travel as well. The Department said it has traditionally interpreted the regulations to require the employer to assume responsibility for the reasonable costs associated with the worker’s travel, including transportation, food, and, in those instances where it is necessary, lodging. If not provided by the employer, the amount an employer must pay for transportation and, where required, lodging must be no less than (and is not required to be more than) the most economical and reasonable costs. The employer is responsible for those costs necessary for the worker to travel to the worksite if the worker completes 50 percent of the work contract period, but is not responsible for unauthorized detours, and the employer is responsible for return transportation and subsistence costs, including lodging costs where necessary, if the worker completes the contract. This policy applies equally to instances where the worker is traveling within the United States to the employer’s worksite.
The notice, which gives additional details and specifics on these amounts and how they are calculated, is available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-03-02/pdf/2012-5243.pdf.The Labor Department also published a notice on the same day about a “non-material change” to the farm labor survey used in determining adverse effect wage rates (AEWRs). Specifically, beginning in 2012, the farm labor survey will be conducted semi-annually instead of quarterly. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will continue to collect data quarterly but will only survey establishments twice a year. The farm labor survey will remain the basis of the AEWR.