Apr 08, 2014 / Written by Woody Myers

Fruit pickingSome farmers in Oregon are learning the hard way you better have all your documentation in order when dealing with paying your workers.  They had their crop seized by the government when the Labor Department accused three blueberry farms of violating labor law by paying workers less than the minimum wage.

The agency claimed the blueberries were unlawfully harvested “hot goods” that could not be shipped in interstate commerce. To avoid having their fruit spoil, the farms agreed to pay $240,000 in alleged back wages and penalties.

Recently, federal labor investigators stopped shipments of valuable blueberries while investigating labor practices at a number of Oregon farms.

These farms had to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in back wages and penalties just to get their crop to market before it went bad.  The lesson from this is clear: protect yourself because farm labor law is complicated.

Fruit and berry pickers often are hired and supervised by contractors, but Oregon farmers nonetheless bear responsibility in a system that requires them to carefully track employees, hours worked and wages paid. If an investigation shows they messed up, through carelessness or otherwise, they can expect to pay back wages and fines.

Most harvest workers prefer to work on a “piece rate,” or per-pound basis, because they can make more money than settling for the fixed, minimum wage. It is a farmer’s obligation, however, to track hours and picking totals to ensure workers earn at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. The law has exceptions and exemptions that further complicate matters.

All the responsibility is on the farm owner.  That’s where we can help.  With the RACO Interactive Pick & Payment Management Solution, the manager is equipped with a mobile device that they would use to scan each picker’s individual waterproof badge when they brought their haul in. The manager would verify the type of product brought in, enter the weight, and print out a receipt containing Pickers ID, Time & Date, & Weight Picked for the worker. From that data, reports can be generated to verify productivity and prove compliance to state law.  See for yourself:

For more information about the RACO Interactive Pick & Payment Management Solution, visit RACOInteractive.com or call 1-800-446-1991.