Employment Law Guide
Chapter: Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection
Updated: September 2005
The Migrant and Seasonal
Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA),
as amended (29 CFR Part 500)
The Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA)
safeguards most migrant and seasonal agricultural workers in their interactions
with farm labor contractors, agricultural employers, agricultural associations,
and providers of migrant housing. However, some farm labor contractors,
agricultural employers, agricultural associations, and providers of migrant
housing are exempt from MSPA under limited circumstances.
The MSPA requires farm labor contractors, agricultural employers, and
agricultural associations who recruit, solicit, hire, employ, furnish,
transport, or house agricultural workers, as well as providers of migrant
housing, to meet certain minimum requirements in their dealings with migrant
and seasonal agricultural workers. These requirements include:
- Employment relationship: Under certain circumstances, the
Department of Labor may determine that an agricultural employer or association
that uses the services of a farm labor contractor is a joint employer of the
agricultural workers furnished by the farm labor contractor. In joint
employment situations, the agricultural employer or association is equally
responsible with the farm labor contractor for compliance with
employment-related MSPA obligations, such as the proper payment of wages.
- Disclosure: Each migrant and seasonal day-haul worker must
receive a written disclosure at the time of recruitment that describes the
terms and conditions of his or her employment. When offering employment, the
employer must provide such disclosure to all seasonal workers upon request. The
disclosure must be written in the worker's language. The employer must also
post in a conspicuous place at the job site a poster setting forth the rights
and protections that MSPA affords workers. A housing provider must post or
present to each worker a statement of the terms and conditions of occupancy.
- Information and Recordkeeping: Each farm labor contractor,
agricultural employer, or association that employs any agricultural worker must
maintain payroll records for each worker showing the basis on which wages were
paid, the number of piecework units earned, the number of hours worked, the
total pay for each pay period, the amounts and reasons for any deductions, and
the net pay.
The employer must provide all workers with these
itemized statements and must preserve these records for three years. If a farm
labor contractor is performing the payroll function, the contractor must
provide a copy of the pay records to the person to whom the workers are
furnished (e.g., agricultural employer or association), and that person must
keep the records for three years. No farm labor contractor, agricultural
employer, or association may knowingly provide false or misleading information
to a worker about employment or the terms and conditions of
- Wages, Supplies, and Working Arrangements: Each person
employing agricultural workers must pay all wages owed when due. Farm labor
contractors, agricultural employers, and associations are prohibited from
requiring workers to purchase goods or services solely from such contractor,
employer, or association, or any person acting as an agent for such a person. In
addition, no farm labor contractor, agricultural employer, or association may
violate the terms of the working arrangement without adequate justification.
- Safety and Health of Housing: Each person who owns or controls
housing provided to migrant agricultural workers must ensure that the facility
complies with the federal and state safety and health standards covering that
housing. Migrant housing may not be occupied until it has been inspected and
certified to meet these safety and health standards. The certification of
occupancy must be posted at the site.
- Transportation Safety: Each vehicle used to transport migrant
or seasonal agricultural workers must be properly insured and operated by a
properly licensed driver. Each such vehicle must also meet federal and state
- Employer Protections: Farm labor contractors must comply with
the terms of any written agreement they make with an agricultural employer or
- Enforcement: The Wage and Hour Division of the Employment Standards Administration
enforces MSPA. During a MSPA investigation, Wage and Hour investigators may enter and inspect
premises (including vehicles and housing), review and transcribe payroll and other records,
and interview employers and employees.
The MSPA provides migrant agricultural workers and day-haul seasonal
agricultural workers the right to receive written notice of the terms and
conditions of their employment when recruited; it provides seasonal workers the
right to receive such notification upon the worker's request. The MSPA also
requires employers of migrants and seasonal agricultural workers to adhere to
the disclosed terms and conditions of employment. Certain exemptions and
exclusions apply to these provisions.
The MSPA also gives migrant and seasonal agricultural workers the right
to file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division, file a private lawsuit
under the Act (or cause a complaint or lawsuit to be filed), or testify or
cooperate with an investigation or lawsuit in other ways without being
intimidated, threatened, restrained, coerced, blacklisted, discharged, or
discriminated against in any manner.
More detailed information, including explanatory brochures and regulatory
and interpretative materials, may be obtained from the Wage and Hour Division’s
Web site or by contacting your local Wage and Hour Division
office. Information about farm
labor contractor applications is available from the nearest State Workforce
Agency office (1-866-4-USA-DOL) or your Wage and Hour Division
For additional compliance assistance, contact the Wage and Hour Division help line at 1-866-4USWAGE.
Violations of MSPA may result in civil money penalties, back wage
assessments, and revocations of certificates of registration. Violations may
also result in civil or criminal actions instituted by the Department of Labor
against any person found in violation of the Act. Civil money penalties up to
$1,000 may be assessed for each violation. Criminal conviction for first time
violators may result in one year in prison and a $1,000 fine; repeat
convictions can result in up to three years in prison and $10,000 in fines. In
addition, individuals whose MSPA rights have been violated may seek civil money
damages in federal court.
MSPA supplements any state or local law. Compliance with MSPA does not
excuse violation of applicable state laws or regulations.
The Employment Law Guide is offered as a public resource. It
does not create new legal obligations and it is not a substitute for the U.S.
Code, Federal Register, and Code of Federal Regulations as the official sources
of applicable law. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information
provided is complete and accurate as of the time of publication, and this will
continue. Later versions of this Guide will be offered at
www.dol.gov/compliance or by calling our Toll-Free
Help Line at 1-866-4-USA-DOL (1-866-487-2365).