Farm Worker Rights (FAQ on Wages and Pay)
Authored By: Montana Legal Services Association (MLSA)
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If you’re a farm worker in Montana, this article will help you know your rights about:
- Minimum wage, unemployment benefits, and worker’s compensation
- What your employer must tell you about how they pay you.
What are my rights regarding wages and other compensation?
Your employer must pay you at least minimum wage for most work, even if the work is piece rate. In 2019, the Montana minimum wage is $8.50 per hour. The minimum wage can change every year on January 1 if the cost of living increases. You can find the current minimum wage on the Montana Department of Labor website.
You are eligible for unemployment if you have worked legally in the United States during at least 20 weeks in the past year and if you have met other requirements. If an employer has not reported your hours, you may contact the Montana Dept. of Labor to request an investigation.
You are eligible if you get injured on the job. Montana employers are required to carry worker’s compensation insurance. You may receive full payment of medical expenses and in many cases partial payment of lost wages.
What information should my employer provide me about wages?
Each time you get paid, your employer must give you a written wage statement like a paycheck stub. Keep all your wage statements or pay records. Your wage statement or paycheck stub must include:
- How much you earned;
- How many hours you worked;
- Whether you were paid by the hour or at a “piece rate” (by the box, bushel, pound, carton, bin);
- If you were paid by piece rate, how much you picked, thinned, pruned, etc.;
- If money gets taken out of your pay (like income taxes, social security taxes or cash advances you received) the written statement must tell you how much was taken out and why;
- The employer’s name, address, and telephone number.
Any deductions from your wages must be listed and explained on your wage statement. Deductions for Social Security and taxes are legally permitted. Sometimes employers take deductions for housing, transportation, tools and other items. The deductions may be illegal if they reduce your wages below the minimum wage. Also, an employer can’t deduct payments for loans, housing, transportation or food without your permission. Contact Montana Legal Services if your wages are reduced below the minimum wage.
- Montana Legal Services Association provides free legal help for eligible agricultural workers, including foreign workers under the federal H-2A program. Learn more about how to apply for free legal help from Montana Legal Services Association.
- If you qualify for help from MLSA, you may be able to get free legal advice from a volunteer attorney by email using Ask Karla.
- Contact your nearest Self Help Law Center for free legal information and forms.