USA Labor Laws for Immigrants

By: Gary Wells

Hiring non-citizens at your place of business can be tricky. Some employers look for alien or immigrant employees to hire, thinking these workers will work more cheaply than U.S. citizens. Other bosses employ migrants in positions that are dangerous, without providing adequate protection or training. There are even some companies that overwork immigrant employees, especially those that don’t speak English very well, taking advantage of the people who depend on these companies to survive.

The truth is that employers must treat immigrants the same way they treat U.S. citizens. The Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA) was enacted to protect migrant and seasonal farm workers, agricultural employees, and migrant housing suppliers. But certain types of labor contractors and employees are exempt under limited circumstances. Employees are entitled to receive the terms and conditions of their jobs written in their own language.

Employers are required to keep written payroll records for migrant workers for three years or more, with copies going to each non-native worker. For agricultural jobs, employers must certify that housing provided to seasonal workers meets federal standards. Vehicles used to transport migrant workers also must be safe for transportation use.

If you are thinking about hiring migrant workers to help at your farm or agricultural business, here are some points to consider:

1. Is the migrant a U.S. citizen? Does he or she have a green card? Is the person an illegal alien? Keep in mind that any worker without proper paperwork proving that he or she belongs in this country could be deported, if caught.

2. Are you willing to extend financial support via employment to migrant workers who are employed by your company? Without evidence of long-term or ongoing employment, some aliens may be asked to leave the country.

3. Does the migrant worker have a family? If so, can you provide adequate housing, sanitation, and educational access to family members? You also may want to consider some type of insurance or health benefits in case someone gets sick or the wife has a baby.

4. Can you help migrant employees become acclimated to your community? This might involve introducing them to other immigrants from their native land, guiding them to English classes at a local high school or cultural institute, and taking them on a tour of local facilities like banks, schools, and stores.

5. Have you done a background check on your migrant employees? You may not want to hire someone with a criminal past unless you feel the person has turned over a new leaf.

6. Don’t forget to consider transportation issues. Unless your migrant workers have a driver’s license and a car of their own, they may depend wholly on public transportation or you to get them to doctor appointments, shopping areas, and business needs.

Contact the federal Department of Labor to learn more about compliance regulations. In some cases, the government provides help to employers and employees. Although there may be cultural, economic, and social advantages to hiring migrant workers in your company, remember to put the employee’s well being ahead of everything else when making your hiring decisions.

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For more information about labor laws in the U.S. for employers and employees, visit Federal and State Labor Laws.

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