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We will continue to inform you of upcoming seminar dates and locations. We are here when you need us!

Ringing in the New Year with Increases for H-2A Visa Program

 By: Rebecca Schach

The Department of Labor (DOL) is wishing everyone happy holidays this week by slapping on increased rates for the H-2A visa program. Each year the DOL is responsible for setting the Adverse Effect Wage Rates (“AEWR”) for the H-2A seasonal guest worker program in agriculture. AEWRs are the minimum wage rates the DOL has determined that ag employers must pay to H-2A workers and domestic workers in corresponding employment for a particular occupation and location (by state). In the current year, the AEWR for California has been $13.92. Starting January 2, 2020, California ag employers will be required to pay $14.77 hourly. By comparison, the California minimum wage starting in 2020 will be $13.00 hourly for employers with 26 or more employees.

AB 51, signed into law by Governor Newsom last October, is the California Legislature’s latest attempt to outlaw the use of mandatory employment arbitration agreements. Fortunately, the new law, scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2020, has already been challenged in federal court due to the preemptive effect of the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”).

Employment arbitration agreements are an invaluable tool for employers to control costs by keeping employment-related claims out of the courts or state administrative agencies.  AB 51 claims it is not prohibiting arbitration agreements, but merely prohibiting an employer from requiring any job applicant or existing employee, as a condition of their employment, to waive their right to file claims or make complaints against their employer in the courts or directly with a state agency for any alleged violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) or the California Labor Code.  Furthermore, employers are prohibited from threatening, retaliating or discriminating against, or terminating a job applicant or existing employee for refusing to agree to such a waiver. 

The House plans to vote tomorrow, Wednesday December 11, 2019, on the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 5038). The Bill, sponsored by Rep. Lofgren (D-CA), has the bipartisan support of 62 co-sponsors (37 Democrats, 25 Republicans), including 17 House Representatives from California.

As a follow up to our E-blast about the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, available here, on December 11, 2019, the House passed the Bill with support from both Republicans and Democrats. Advocates for the Bill anticipate changes and possibly a conflicting bill to come from the Senate that may require special committee to finalize Bill language. Advocates for the Bill are optimistic that strong support for industry in the Senate will help push this Bill to a vote.

We’ve Got the Cart, Now Where’s the Horse?

 By: Rebecca Schach

As we previously reported, California Representative Lofgren introduced the cart for immigration change through the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (originally H.R. 4916 then renamed H.R. 5038) into the House of Representatives last month. Just this past week, the bill moved out of the House Judiciary Committee and is headed to the House floor for a vote. As it stands, advocates are concerned that the bill will not have a horse in the race given the overwhelming focus on impeachment proceedings in the House. We will continue to ride this pony train and provide updates as the Congressional sessions winds down for 2019.

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