What is the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (AWPA)?
The Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (AWPA) protects
migrant and seasonal farmworkers. If an employer violates AWPA, a worker can sue the employer. If an employer is found to have violated AWPA, the worker is entitled to damages up to $500 for each violation. An employer cannot retaliate against a worker who asserts his rights under AWPA.
Who is protected under AWPA?
AWPA protects farmworkers who perform migrant (temporary) or seasonal work.
• A migrant agricultural worker is someone who works an agricultural job on a
seasonal or temporary basis. To be a migrant worker, the worker must be absent overnight
from his or her permanent place of residence.
• A seasonal agricultural worker is someone who works an agricultural job on a seasonal or temporary basis but is NOT required to be absent overnight from his or her permanent place of residence. The worker must perform fieldwork on a farm or ranch or be employed in canning, packing, or similar activities and transported by day haul. AWPA excludes year-round agricultural workers at dairies or egg farms from these protections. However, these workers may have legal remedies under other laws. Also excluded are foreign workers who are brought to the United States under the H-2A temporary agricultural worker visa program. Some family businesses and small employers are also exempt from AWPA requirements.
Who is required to follow the AWPA?
• Agricultural employers. A farmer, packer, or processor who recruits, solicits,
hires, furnishes, or transports migrant or seasonal workers.
• Agricultural associations. A grower association or cooperative of growers and
farmers that recruits, solicits, hires, furnishes, or transports migrant or seasonal workers.
• Farm labor contractors (FLCs). Any person who is paid to recruit, solicit, hire,
employ, furnish, or transport migrant or seasonal farmworkers. They are also known
as crew leaders, labor recruiters, or a labor agency. FLCs must register with the United States Department of Labor and get authorization for each activity that they do. FLCs must carry
their registration certificate with them and show it to workers if asked. If an employer
uses an FLC, they must take reasonable steps to determine that the FLC is registered.
General obligations of employers and FLCs
• cannot knowingly give false or misleading information to a worker – including the amount of money to be earned;
• cannot require workers to purchase any goods exclusively from the employer/
• cannot violate the terms of any “working arrangement” with a worker.
What is a working arrangement?
A working arrangement is the understanding between the employer and worker about the
expected terms and conditions of the job. It is a contract but does not need to be in writing to
What obligations does a recruiter of workers have?
They must give written disclosures of employment terms to workers that include:
• place of work, name, and address of the employer;
• wage to be paid;
• crops and other activities the worker will be involved with;
• the period of employment (stop and start date);
• the provided benefits (transportation, housing) and how much the worker must pay
for them; and
• whether workers’ compensation coverage exists.
Disclosures must be in writing, in the workers’ native language, and understandable
to the worker.
Disclosures must be given to migrant workers in every instance and at the time of recruitment.
Disclosures must be given to seasonal workers only upon request.
What are the employer’s obligations?
• post a notice at the job site stating workers’ rights under the AWPA;
• make and keep detailed payroll records for each pay period;
• give each worker an accurate pay stub that includes the number of hours worked,
basis on which wages are paid, number of pieces (if the worker is paid a piece-rate), total
earnings for the pay period, and any amounts withheld or deducted along with the reason
for the deduction;
• pay workers at least every two weeks; and
• pay workers their wages, in full, on the day they are due.
Transportation obligations (if the employer has agreed to provide transportation)
• the vehicle must comply with federal and state safety standards;
• driver(s) must have a valid license;
• must have proper insurance; and
• must obey the traffic laws while driving.
Housing obligations (if the employer has agreed to provide housing)
• must comply with all federal and state health and safety standards;
• an appropriate agency must certify compliance with the health and safety standards; and
• must post the certificate of compliance.
What can I do if I think that my employer or FLC has violated the AWPA?
Iowa Legal Aid’s Farmworker Rights Project helps advise workers about these protections
and assert their rights under the law. Our services are free and confidential. Call Iowa Legal Aid at 800-532-1275 to do an application for assistance in your native language. You can also make an application online at IowaLegalAid.org or in person at one of our regional offices. Iowa Legal Aid understands that workers may be reluctant to make an allegation about an employer during their employment. Iowa Legal Aid can assist you with an application for assistance even after your job has ended or if you’ve returned to your home state or country.
• Iowa Legal Aid provides free legal assistance and representation to low-income Iowans.
To apply for help from Iowa Legal Aid:
• Apply online at IowaLegalAid.org; OR
- Call 800-532-1275; OR
- Call us on What’s App: 515-443-2755
• Iowans age 60 and over, call 800-992-8161
• If Iowa Legal Aid cannot help, you can look for an attorney on “Find A Lawyer”
on the Iowa State Bar Association website at IowaBar.org. A private attorney there can talk with you for a fee of $25 for 30 minutes of legal advice.
Updated February 1, 2019.