DOL Releases 2014 Allowable Charges for Agricultural Workers
The Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) issued a notice in the Federal Register on March 5, 2014, to announce (1) the allowable charges for 2014 that employers seeking H-2A temporary agricultural workers may charge their workers when the employer provides three meals a day, and (2) the maximum travel subsistence meal reimbursement that a worker with receipts may claim in 2014. The notice includes a reminder regarding employers’ obligations with respect to overnight lodging costs as part of required subsistence.
Among the minimum benefits and working conditions that the Department requires employers to offer their U.S. and H-2A workers are three meals a day or free and convenient cooking and kitchen facilities. Where the employer provides the meals, the job offer must state the charge, if any, to the worker for such meals. The maximum allowable charge is $11.58 per day, unless the Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) Certifying Officer approves a higher charge. The OFLC Certifying Officer may permit an employer to charge workers a higher amount for providing them with three meals a day, if the higher amount is justified and sufficiently documented by the employer.
The Continental United States (CONUS) minimum meals component remains $46.00 per day for 2014. Workers who qualify for travel reimbursement are entitled to reimbursement for meals up to the CONUS meal rate when they provide receipts. In determining the appropriate amount of reimbursement for meals for less than a full day, the employer may provide for meal expense reimbursement, with receipts, to 75 percent of the maximum reimbursement for meals of $34.50, as provided for in the General Services Administration per diem schedule. If a worker has no receipts, the employer is not obligated to reimburse above the minimum.
ETA said it interprets the applicable regulation as requiring the employer to assume responsibility for the reasonable costs associated with the worker’s travel, including transportation, food, and, in those instances where it is necessary, lodging. If transportation and lodging are not provided by the employer, the amount an employer must pay for transportation and, where required, lodging, must be no less than (and is not required to be more than) the most economical and reasonable costs, ETA noted. The employer is responsible for those costs necessary for the worker to travel to the worksite if the worker completes 50 percent of the work contract period, but is not responsible for unauthorized detours, and if the worker completes the contract, return transportation and subsistence costs, including lodging costs where necessary. This policy applies equally to instances where the worker is traveling within the United States to the employer’s worksite.