By The California Applicants’ Attorneys Association | May 6, 2024

This past week U.S. Labor Department Secretary, Julie Su made her way to Santa Rosa, CA to announce new federal regulations aimed at providing temporary farmworkers with enhanced legal protections. Effective June 28, The Farmworker Protection Rule seeks to uphold fair labor standards and targets three substantial abuses in the agricultural sector:

1.   Protection from Retaliation: Employers may no longer take or hold workers’ passports, visas or other I.D.s. The rule safeguards farmworkers from employer retaliation when they advocate for better working conditions, like protection from the heat which can be particularly devastating here in California. Farmworkers are 35 times more likely to die from heat exposure than workers in other jobs.

2.   Increased Transparency in Recruitment Practices: By requiring employers to disclose agreements with recruiters and identify those involved in recruitment, the rule aims to prevent human trafficking and exploitation of farmworkers. This transparency can lead to more equitable recruitment practices and ensure that farmworkers are informed about their rights, including entitlement to overtime pay and heat protection.

3.   Transportation Safety Requirements: The new rule mandates transportation safety measures, such as seatbelts in farm vehicles. This directly addresses one aspect of worker safety as reports of overcrowded farm vehicles and fatalities have increased – transportation accidents are a leading cause of death for farmworkers.

By targeting abuses like employer retaliation and unsafe working conditions, the Farmworker Protection Rule significantly strengthens the legal framework protecting farmworkers. This provides them with greater leverage to advocate for improved worker benefits, including overtime pay and heat protection measures.