Premium Joomla Template by HostMonster Reviews

Employment of Minors Resources from FELS

Updated May 24, 2021


California: Your Kids are Employees

The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement publishes guidance of many employment related topics; one of these is a page of Frequently-Asked Questions on a variety of employment-related topics, including the employment of family members.  The question arose recently from a Farm Bureau member whose children work in the business who was uncertain whether it was neccessary to obtain workers compensation insurance to cover them.  The answer appears to be that California law requires all employers to obtain workers' compensation insurance for all employees, and that California law considers the business owner's children to be employees.


USDOL Uses "Hot Goods" as a Child Labor Enforcement Tactic

The U.S. Department of Labor has used the Fair Labor Standards Act's "hot goods" provision for enforcement purposes. "Hot goods" allows the Department to confiscate items produced in violation of the requirements of the FLSA. In particular, DOL has been using "hot goods" for enforcement against alleged child labor violations.  While "hot goods" might make sense to use as leverage with manufacturers of inanimate objects, use against farmers and their perishable commodities can threaten the economic viability of a farming operation.  Here's a report on DOL's use of "hot goods" in Oregon and other places.

Since DOL seems to taking a particular interest in child labor enforcement in agriculture, this might be an opportune time to review your compliance procedures.  FELS Newsletter subscribers can find child labor compliance resources at this link.


FELS Employment of Minors Resource

FELS has created this chart to illustrate the various restrictions on employment of employees under 18 years of age in agriculture and ag-related occupations.  Note that this chart reflects a combination of California and federal law, including requirements to obtain work permits. 


Please refer questions to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 1-800-753-9073.

Fresno Court Declines to Invalidate Piecerate Safe Harbor 

July 25, 2016

Bryan Little, Farm Employers Labor Service

On July 25, a Superior Court in Fresno denied a petition by Nisei Farmers League requesting a preliminary injunction to prevent the Department of Industrial Relations from implementing the piecerate safe harbor, and allowing employers until July 28, 2016 to file for the safe harbor.  The original deadline had been July 1, 2016.

The safe harbor was created by AB 1513, legislation passed by the California Legislature that became effective on January 1, 2016.  The safe harbor was intended to protect employers from liability for failing to properly compensate employees for rest periods and other non-productive time in the wake of appellate court decisions in 2013 in the Gonzalez and Bluford cases that held that employers must separately compensate employees for rest and other non-productive time.

The Superior Court was not persuaded by allegations raised in the underlying lawsuit by Nisei Farmers League which questioning the legal validity of several features of AB 1513, in particular the meaning of the phrases "other non-productive time" and "directly related" in the context of activity directly related to the production of piece-rate compensated work.  Nisei successfully sought a temporary restraining order against the operation of the AB 1513 safe harbor deadlines and requested a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Department of Industrial Relations from enforcing the July 1 sign-up deadline; the December 15, 2016 back wage payment deadline, and any requirements included in AB 1513 dependent on the phrases "other non-productive time" or "directly related."

FELS subscribers and clients should be advised that the piecerate safe harbor and AB 1513 as a whole remain in place.  The deadline for employers to file for the safe harbor remains July 28, 2016.

You can find further AB 1513/Safe Harbor resources at this link.  

National Agricultural Workers Survey Coming Soon

The U.S. Department of Labor's National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) will be conducting interviews over the next few months in the following counties:


Santa Barbara












JBS International has been conducting the NAWS since 1989 as a contractor to the US Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration. JBS’ trained interviewers contact agricultural employers to request permission to conduct interviews with their workers at times convenient to the employer. Each interviewed worker receives a $20 honorarium.

JBS follows strict protocols to protect the privacy of both employers and workers.  It is a felony for interviewers to share information about employers involved in the survey.

The survey’s main objective is to identify trends in the make-up of the hired farm workforce.  The information obtained helps agricultural employers and their associations stay informed about the characteristics of the hired farm workforce and helps public and private agencies better plan programs for farm workers.  Survey information also can inform legislators and policymakers about issues important to the future of the industry. For more information about NAWS, visit

If you or your employees have questions about the survey or you want to verify the identity of survey interviewers who contact you, please contact FELS at 800-753-9073 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

NAWS Frequently Asked Questions for Agricultural Employers

1.      What is the NAWS?

 NAWS is the only nationwide survey of crop workers (including year-round or permanent, migrant, seasonal and nursery workers) in the United States. The survey describes the characteristics and employment profiles of crop workers, and trends in the hired farm labor market.

2.      How is the information used?

 The information helps agricultural employers and their organizations stay informed about the characteristics of the hired farm workforce and helps public and private agencies better plan programs for farm workers.

3.      What is in it for the agricultural employer?

 Agricultural employers and their organizations use NAWS data to stay informed about important evolving trends in the make-up of the hired farm workforce and assess the availability of labor.

4.      Is it mandatory to participate?

 Participation is not mandatory. However, your participation will ensure that information used by agricultural associations, legislatures, and program planners is accurate.

5.      Can I see a copy of the survey?

 Yes the survey is on the NAWS website at:

 6.      Why am I selected?

 You were randomly selected from a list of agricultural employers in your county.

7.      Who qualifies?

 Any employer who hires labor for crop-related work at farms, orchards, groves, greenhouses, and nurseries is qualified.

 8.      Who is JBS International Inc.? 

JBS is a research firm that brings a 30-year history of work with Federal, State, private firms, and community agencies.

9.      Are you Department Of Labor?

No, we are an independent research firm contracted by the Department of Labor.

10.   Does survey staff work for the government?

No, survey staff work for JBS International, Inc. JBS International is contracted by the United States Department of Labor (US DOL) to conduct the NAWS.

FELS Publishes AB 1513 Piece-rate Wage Resources

NEW!:  Employees seeking payment of back wages from the Unclaimed Wages Fund (UWF) can claim those wages through the procedure described in this document provided by the Department of Industrial Relations.

FELS has published frequently asked questions (FAQs) about AB 1513, legislation passed in 2015 that became effective on January 1, 2016.  AB 1513 established minimum standards for compensation of rest and recovery time during periods when employees are compensated on a piece-rate basis, and for compensation of time during which employees are not producing income-generating pieces due to the employer's actions or directions (for example, during safety trainings).  AB 1513 also provided an optional "safe harbor" under which an employer who may not have compensated piece-rate employees as required by the Bluford and Gonzales court decisions from 2013 may obtain an affirmative defense against any related civil claim by paying employees back wages according to one of two methods specified by AB 1513.

Both the rules for piece-rate compensation as of January 1, 2016 and the "safe harbor" rules have proved to be complicated and confusing to many employers.  The Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, Department of Industrial Relations (DLSE) has provided useful guidance, but questions have continued.

For farm employers preparing letters to employees to whom they are making back-wage payments tp purchase the protection of AB 1513's safe harbor, the following language tracks closely with Labor Code Section 226.2, subdivision (b)(5), which specifies the safe-harbor back wage payment procedure:

Pursuant to Labor Code section 226.2, XXXXXX is making the [enclosed, attached, or accompanying] payment to you. This payment was determined based on the formula in Labor Code section 226.2, subdivision (b)(1)(B). The calculations that were made to determine the total payment are as follows:

(Date) to (Date)                Hours worked                   Gross Wages Paid            4% of Gross Wages Paid                      

    XX to &&                                       33                                                   $1000                             $40                                               

previous payment for other non-productive time                                  previous payment for rest and recovery periods                                 

            $12  (66 minutes @ $10/hour)                                                           $16 (2 hours @ $8/hour) 

                                                                                                             total back wages paid                                                                                           


Please direct questions to FELS at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or 800-753-9073.

OC Register on Fowler-Gerawan Piece-rate Suit

The Orange County Register editorialized on February 24, 2016 about the pending lawsuit brought by Fowler Packing and Gerawan Farming Company seeking to invalidate provisions of piece-rate legislation passed by the California Legislature that were designed to specifically to exclude Fowler and Gerawan from taking advantage of the AB 1513 safe harbor:

"We are a nation built on equal protection under the law. The Legislature was established to serve all Californians, not to serve as the attack dog for special interests. Legislative carve-outs like those in AB1513 are an affront to those noble ideals and should be swiftly struck down by the courts."

You can read the entire editorial at this link.

Lawsuit to Invalidate ALRB Trespass-Access Rule

The Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) announced a lawsuit against the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) to invalidate the long-standing Board regulation giving unions the right to trespass on farmers' property in union campaigns.

PLF Principal Attorney Joshua P. Thompson announced at a press conference Wednesday at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, CA: "This case is about basic protections for everyone who owns property,” said PLF Principal Attorney Joshua P. Thompson. “Nothing is more fundamental for any property owner than being able to keep trespassers out. Bureaucrats can’t cancel that right - especially not as a favor to organized labor.

Read more: Lawsuit to Invalidate ALRB Trespass-Access Rule

"CAUSE" Calls for "Farm Worker Bill of Rights"

The Central Coast Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, or CAUSE, make headlines recently in Santa Barbara County with it's call for a "farm worker bill of rights."  CAUSE, a self-described social justice advocacy organization, grew out of "living wage" movements in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties in the early 2000s.

CAUSE's call for action by Santa Barbara County demands the county undertake a number of new responsibilities, like creating a special coordinator in the District Attorney's office for sexual assaults of farmworker, a county-run inspection program for field sanitation facilities, and grants from the county to farm worker service organizations to provide training to farm workers.  

Some of CAUSE's demands are already covered by California and Federal law:

"Curbing Extreme Overwork:" 

  •  Protect pregnant women from pesticide exposure my mandating job status protected unpaid pregnancy leave:  All U.S. and California workers enjoy the protection of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act.  FMLA and CFRA mandate 12 weeks of job-protected leave for all workers after the birth or adoption of a child.  Additionally,  California State Disability Insurance (SDI) provides partial wage-replacement insurance for workers who suffer a loss of wages due to a medically-disabling condition resulting from pregnancy or childbirth.
  • Require real rest breaks by defining breaks as beginning when a work reaches a break area…: California's Wage Order 14 stipulating working conditions for agricultural workers requires that that farm workers receive "ten minutes of net rest time per four hour (work) period (or major fraction thereof)"..., and the Heat Illness Prevention standard (HIP) requires net-10 minute rest periods every two hours whenever the temperature exceeds 95 degrees, as well as provision of water for all workers at all times and shade for all workers on a break a meal or rest break.

"Cracking down on Wage Theft:"

  •  Several recent laws passed by the California Legislature are aimed by protecting workers from wage theft, including full disclosure to workers of their wages and deductions required on every paycheck stub, empowering the Labor Commissioner to enforce local wage laws, empowering the Labor Commissioner to place liens on the property of employers found to have not properly paid wages.  Penalties under the Labor Code for failure to promptly pay wages are substantial, including as much as 30 days of a workers’ pay over and above any unpaid wages, as well as other penalties ranging from $1000 to $5000, criminal prosecution, and civil liability under California’s Private Attorneys’ General Act (PAGA).

"Protecting Health & Safety:"

  • Provide grant funding for worker safety training:  California employers are required by state law to provide training for workers to perform their jobs safely, to provide training on heat illness under the HIP standard, and other specific task training like safe use of forklifts and tractors.  The U.S. Department of Labor and numerous other organizations also provide grant funding for local private and charitable organizations to provide additional training, and many agricultural and other community-based organizations also provide training and health screening services for farmworkers, like cholesteral and blood pressure screening.
  •  Inspect farms for clean bathrooms: Cal/OSHA already vigorously enforces the Field Sanitation Standard, which calls for toilet facilities, wash water, soap and paper towels.
  • Aid victims of sexual assault: California provides extensive protection to prevent sexual assault and to aid victims; all employers are required to provide sexual harassment training to supervisors every two years; farm labor contractors are required to training their supverisory personnel annually, and to train workers on their rights and protections from sexual harassment at least annually upon hire.

Much of what CAUSE is demanding from Santa Barbara County is already being done by the state or by agricultural employers in compliance with state and federal law.  Unfortunately, organizations like CAUSE periodically seek headlines to satisfy their liberal donor base, even if their demands have already been largely met.

FED OSHA Issues Ag Safety Fact Sheets

The federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the national counterpart to California's Cal/OSHA, has issued three new fact sheets on ag safety:


The issuance of these fact sheets does not create any new compliance obligations for California agricultural employers.  A positive effect of their issuance may be allowing farm employers to learn more about best practices for use of vehicles; vehicle accidents are among the most common types of accidents in agricultural employment.  A possible negative effect of the issuance of these fact sheets is that their existence may bolster an OSHA General Duty Clause violation (the federal OSH Act imposes a general obligation on employers to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards) or Cal/OSHA Injury & Illness Program violation citation for failing to identify and abate a hazard.