20 CFR § 655.135 - Assurances and obligations of H-2A employers.

§ 655.135 Assurances and obligations of H-2A employers.
Link to an amendment published at 89 FR 34062, Apr. 29, 2024.

An employer seeking to employ H-2A workers must agree as part of the Application for Temporary Employment Certification and job offer that it will abide by the requirements of this subpart and make each of the following additional assurances:

(a) Non-discriminatory hiring practices. The job opportunity is, and through the period set forth in paragraph (d) of this section must continue to be, open to any qualified U.S. worker regardless of race, color, national origin, age, sex, religion, handicap, or citizenship status. Rejections of any U.S. workers who applied or apply for the job must be only for lawful, job-related reasons, and those not rejected on this basis have been or will be hired. In addition, the employer has and will continue to retain records of all hires and rejections as required by § 655.167.

(b) No strike or lockout. The place(s) of employment for which the employer is requesting a temporary agricultural labor certification does not currently have employees on strike or being locked out in the course of a labor dispute.

(c) Recruitment requirements—(1) General requirements. The employer has and will continue to cooperate with the SWA by accepting referrals of all eligible U.S. workers who apply (or on whose behalf an application is made) for the job opportunity until the end of the period as specified in paragraph (d) of this section and must independently conduct the positive recruitment activities, as specified in § 655.154, until the date on which the H-2A workers depart for the place of employment. Unless the SWA is informed in writing of a different date, the date that is the third day preceding the employer's first date of need will be determined to be the date the H-2A workers departed for the employer's place of employment.

(2) Interviewing U.S. workers. Employers that wish to require interviews must conduct those interviews by phone or provide a procedure for the interviews to be conducted in the location where the U.S. worker is being recruited so that the worker incurs little or no cost due to the interview. Employers cannot provide potential H-2A workers with more favorable treatment than U.S. workers with respect to the requirement for, and conduct of, interviews.

(3) Qualified and available U.S. workers. The employer must consider all U.S. applicants for the job opportunity until the end of the recruitment period, as set forth in § 655.135(d). The employer must accept and hire all applicants who are qualified and who will be available for the job opportunity. U.S. applicants can be rejected only for lawful, job-related reasons, and those not rejected on this basis will be hired.

(d) Fifty percent rule. From the time the foreign workers depart for the employer's place of employment, the employer must provide employment to any qualified, eligible U.S. worker who applies to the employer until 50 percent of the period of the work contract has elapsed. Start of the work contract timeline is calculated from the first date of need stated on the Application for Temporary Employment Certification, under which the foreign worker who is in the job was hired. This paragraph (d) will not apply to any employer who certifies to in the Application for Temporary Employment Certification that the employer:

(1) Did not, during any calendar quarter during the preceding calendar year, use more than 500 man-days of agricultural labor, as defined in 29 U.S.C. 203(u);

(2) Is not an employer-member of an association that has petitioned for certification under this subpart for its employer-members; and

(3) Has not otherwise associated with other employers who are petitioning for temporary foreign workers under this subpart.

(e) Compliance with applicable laws. During the period of employment that is the subject of the Application for Temporary Employment Certification, the employer must comply with all applicable Federal, State, and local laws and regulations, including health and safety laws. In compliance with such laws, including the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, Pub. L. 110-457, 18 U.S.C. 1592(a), the employer may not hold or confiscate workers' passports, visas, or other immigration documents. H-2A employers may also be subject to the FLSA. The FLSA operates independently of the H-2A program and has specific requirements that address payment of wages, including deductions from wages, the payment of Federal minimum wage and payment of overtime.

(f) Job opportunity is full-time. The job opportunity is a full-time temporary position, calculated to be at least 35 hours per workweek.

(g) No recent or future layoffs. The employer has not laid off and will not lay off any similarly employed U.S. worker in the occupation that is the subject of the Application for Temporary Employment Certification in the area of intended employment except for lawful, job-related reasons within 60 days of the first date of need, or if the employer has laid off such workers, it has offered the job opportunity that is the subject of the Application for Temporary Employment Certification to those laid-off U.S. worker(s) and the U.S. worker(s) refused the job opportunity, was rejected for the job opportunity for lawful, job-related reasons, or was hired. A layoff for lawful, job-related reasons such as lack of work or the end of the growing season is permissible if all H-2A workers are laid off before any U.S. worker in corresponding employment.

(h) No unfair treatment. The employer has not and will not intimidate, threaten, restrain, coerce, blacklist, discharge or in any manner discriminate against, and has not and will not cause any person to intimidate, threaten, restrain, coerce, blacklist, or in any manner discriminate against, any person who has:

(1) Filed a complaint under or related to 8 U.S.C. 1188 or this subpart or any Department regulation in this chapter or 29 CFR part 501 promulgated under 8 U.S.C. 1188;

(2) Instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding under or related to 8 U.S.C. 1188 or this subpart or any Department regulation in this chapter or 29 CFR part 501 promulgated under 8 U.S.C. 1188;

(3) Testified or is about to testify in any proceeding under or related to 8 U.S.C. 1188 or this subpart or any Department regulation in this chapter or 29 CFR part 501 promulgated under 8 U.S.C. 1188;

(4) Consulted with an employee of a legal assistance program or an attorney on matters related to 8 U.S.C. 1188 or this subpart or any Department regulation in this chapter or 29 CFR part 501 promulgated under 8 U.S.C. 1188; or

(5) Exercised or asserted on behalf of themself or others any right or protection afforded by 8 U.S.C. 1188 or this subpart or any Department regulation in this chapter or 29 CFR part 501 promulgated under 8 U.S.C. 1188.

(i) Notify workers of duty to leave United States.

(1) The employer must inform H-2A workers of the requirement that they leave the United States at the end of the period certified by the Department or separation from the employer, whichever is earlier, as required under paragraph (i)(2) of this section, unless the H-2A worker is being sponsored by another subsequent H-2A employer.

(2) As explained further in the DHS regulations, a temporary agricultural labor certification limits the validity period of an H-2A Petition. See 8 CFR 214.2(h)(5)(vii). A foreign worker may not remain beyond their authorized period of stay, as determined by DHS, nor beyond separation from employment prior to completion of the H-2A contract, absent an extension or change of such worker's status under the DHS regulations. See 8 CFR 214.2(h)(5)(viii)(B).

(j) Comply with the prohibition against employees paying fees. The employer and its agents have not sought or received payment of any kind from any employee subject to 8 U.S.C. 1188 for any activity related to obtaining H-2A labor certification, including payment of the employer's attorney fees, application fees, or recruitment costs. For purposes of this paragraph (j), payment includes, but is not limited to, monetary payments, wage concessions (including deductions from wages, salary, or benefits), kickbacks, bribes, tributes, in kind payments, and free labor. The provision in this paragraph (j) does not prohibit employers or their agents from receiving reimbursement for costs that are the responsibility and primarily for the benefit of the worker, such as government-required passport fees.

(k) Contracts with third parties to comply with prohibitions. The employer must contractually prohibit in writing any foreign labor contractor or recruiter (or any agent of such foreign labor contractor or recruiter) whom the employer engages, either directly or indirectly, in international recruitment of H-2A workers to seek or receive payments or other compensation from prospective employees. The contract must include the following statement: “Under this agreement, [name of foreign labor contractor or recruiter] and any agent or employee of [name of foreign labor contractor or recruiter] are prohibited from seeking or receiving payments from any prospective employee of [employer name] at any time, including before or after the worker obtains employment. Payments include but are not limited to any direct or indirect fees paid by such employees for recruitment, job placement, processing, maintenance, attorney fees, agent fees, application fees, or any fees related to obtaining H-2A labor certification.” This documentation is to be made available upon request by the CO or another Federal party.

(l) Notice of worker rights. The employer must post and maintain in a conspicuous location at the place of employment, a poster provided by the Secretary in English, and, to the extent necessary, any language common to a significant portion of the workers if they are not fluent in English, which sets out the rights and protections for workers employed pursuant to 8 U.S.C. 1188.