Your Wage Rate
Most farmworkers in North Carolina are entitled to be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for each hour of work. If you were promised more, you should be paid what you were promised.
If you work for a farm or a crewleader who has a very small number of workers who work very few days, you may not be covered by the federal minimum wage, but you still must be paid what you were promised.
If you are an H-2A worker, your guaranteed hourly wage will be what was promised in your H-2A contract. Your hourly wage in 2017 is $11.27.
If you work for an employer who also employs H-2A workers and you do the same kind of work, you should be paid at least the guaranteed hourly wage in their contract. In 2017, you should be paid at least $11.27 per hour.
You should receive a wage statement with their wages, whether you are paid in cash or by check. It is very important that you keep this wage statement. The wage statement should tell you how many hours you worked during the pay period and how much you earned by the hour and by the piece. It should also fully identify all deductions made from your wages.
If you are paid by the piece (bucket, barn, truckload, number of trees planted, etc), you should still earn at least as much you would earn if you had been paid by your hourly wage rate. Your employer should pay you the higher of the minimum wage or your piece rate earnings.
Joe was paid forty cents ($.40) a bucket for picking sweet potatoes. Last week he worked 45 hours. He picked 750 buckets of sweet potatoes. Joe works for a large crewleader who must pay his workers the federal minimum wage. Joe was paid for all his buckets of sweet potatoes and earned $300.00 (750 x $.40 = $300.00) for the week. However, Joe should have received $326.25 (45 x $7.25= $326.25).
Sam worked for the same crewleader. Sam picked 850 buckets of sweet potatoes last week when he also worked 45 hours. Sam earned $340.00 (850 x $.40 = $340.00), more than the federal minimum wage of $326.25 for 45 hours (45 x $7.25=$326.25). Sam should receive $340.00.
If you are like Joe, and earned less than the minimum wage in any week, the Farmworker Unit may be able to help you make a claim for your unpaid wages.
Most farmworkers are not covered by overtime. However:
- If you are working in re-forestation, such as planting trees or clearing brush; or
- If you are working in a packinghouse that packs produce from farmers who do not own the packinghouse; or
- If you work some in the field and some in a packinghouse that packs produce from other farmers in the same week,
You may be entitled to be paid time-and-a-half for all hours in excess of 40 that you work in any week.
Payment for All Your Hours
You must be paid for all the time you work in a given day.
Normally work time does not include the time you spend going from the camp to the worksite or returning to the camp.
Your workday will usually begin when you arrive at the first field for the day.
However, if your crew must stop on the way to the field and load work-related equipment or if you must report at a certain time to receive your assignment, your work time begins when you report or load the equipment.
When you have worked in one field and must move to another field, your work time includes the time spent traveling from one field to another unless you take a lunch break of 30 minutes or more during that trip.
If equipment breaks down and you have to wait to do your work, your work time includes the time you have to wait.
Breaks are a normal part of any job. If the breaks are 20 minutes or less, they are part of your work time and you should be paid for them. You should be given enough time to drink water and use field sanitation facilities in the field as you need to.
Your workday ends when you finish working. The ride from your last work back to the camp is not time worked.
Under North Carolina law, you must give your employer written permission to make deductions from your pay. The only exception is for deductions required by law, such as taxes.
If your employer makes deductions for things like rent or food or other things he sells you, like cigarettes, he cannot charge you unless you have given him written permission to do so. He cannot force you to do so by withholding your pay until you give permission.