Twelve West Texas gins were inspected by the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor during the 2016/2017 ginning season. The Wage and Hour folks came right back this year, inspecting eight more gins. I don’t know whether we will see them again next year, but the Wage and Hour folks certainly know what a cotton gin is. The Texas Cotton Ginners’ Association staff has spent a fair amount of time working with the Wage and Hour administrator in Lubbock. We have learned some things that are probably important items to check at any gin across the Cotton Belt.
These inspections were conducted to check for compliance with the Migrant and Seasonal Worker Protection Act. In many cases, we have some workers who are migrant and seasonal, and some who are seasonal but not migrant. If all of your workers are from the local area, you may not have migrant workers, and the rules are a little different. For the majority of those who use migrant and seasonal workers, here are some helpful hints to keep you out of trouble with the Wage and Hour folks.
Information Must Be Provided To Workers
There is a list of information that must be provided to migrant workers with their paycheck. These include the basis on which wages are paid (hourly rate), the number of hours worked, the total pay period earnings, the specific sums withheld and the purpose of each sum withheld, and the net pay. In addition, you have to include the employer’s name, address and employer identification number assigned by the Internal Revenue Service. Finally, there are requirements for worker information that are required, and this includes the worker’s social security number on the paystub.
The two items our gins tend to be missing are the employer’s EIN number, and the worker’s Social Security number. The EIN must be spelled out, but the Social Security number can be printed with just the last four digits showing (XXX-XX-1234).
There is also a list of information you must provide all migrant workers when you recruit them and which you must provide seasonal workers if they ask for it. We recommend to all our members that they give this form to all seasonal workers when they are recruited. This form is available at https://www.dol.gov/whd/forms/wh516.pdf. You don’t have to use the form, but it contains all the information needed. You can fill out all but two blanks on the form before you begin recruiting and then fill in the wage rate and the hire date for each worker as you recruit them.
One important blank on this form is right at the top. You must tell workers their time of employment from start to finish. The start date is usually known with some certainty, but the ending date is unknown. We recommend our members put “end of ginning season” as the ending date for employment.
An employer is required to give the worker the best data they know at the time of recruitment, but we never know when we will finish ginning. Guessing at an end date and writing it down involves multiple problems, but that is more information than we have room for here.
Worker Recruitment Timing
One final note – this form is due when a worker is recruited. At most gins, workers are required to come in and fill out an application before they are offered a job. If this is your practice, then you are not recruiting until that time, and you can hand out the WH-516 form when they are offered a job.
On the other hand, we have instances where the gin has the same crew that comes back every year. In this example, if they call in August to see when they need to be at the gin and you tell the worker to come up in the second week in October to work, then you have just recruited this worker. You must send them the information at that time. This is something to consider when determining your hiring practices.
Kelley Green, TCGA director of technical services, contributed this article. Contact him at email@example.com.