Several laws protect you, as a farmworker, from retaliation if you complain about your wages, unsafe working conditions, poor housing, violations of your H-2A contract, not getting what you were promised by your employer when you were recruited, or violations of a special federal law, the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.
Often it seems wiser to stay quiet and not complain. Many workers feel that the employer will retaliate against them if they do complain.
In reality, though, it is safer to complain than to stay quiet. If you do make a complaint, the law offers protections.
North Carolina law protects you from retaliation if you complain about your wages or farmworker housing, or unsafe working conditions, or pesticide problems, or an injury on the job or occupational illness, you are protected against retaliation. If you make a complaint — to the employer or to the North Carolina Department of Labor or even to the Farmworker Unit — and your employer retaliates against you, your employer is required to pay you damages and a penalty. This law also covers you if you don’t make a complaint but you provide information to an investigator seeking information about conditions.
Federal laws give you protection from retaliation if you complain about minimum wages and overtime or your H-2A contract, or broken promises and other violations of the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. These laws also protect you if you provide information to the U.S. Department of Labor as they investigate. The rules about H-2A workers also prohibit retaliation for consulting with someone who works for Legal Aid. These laws and rules also require your employer to pay your damages if he retaliates against you.
Those workers who stay quiet and do not complain or who are not truthful with the North Carolina or U.S. Department of Labor officials when they investigate are left without any protection if the employer decided to fire them or not ask them to return. It is better to defend yourself and your rights!