December 29, 2020

Federal Court Blocks DOL Rule on H-2A Wage Freeze

On December 23, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the District of Eastern California granted the United Farm Workers’ (UFW) motion for a preliminary injunction, preventing the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) from freezing wages under the H-2A agricultural guest-worker program.

Last month, DOL published a final rule freezing wages for 2021 and 2022 at the 2020 adverse effect wage rate (AEWR), which is $14.77 an hour in California, $14.26 in Colorado and $12.91 in Arizona and New Mexico. The new rule was to take effect on Dec. 21 and begin regulating wages beginning in January. However, the UFW and the UFW Foundation filed a lawsuit alleging the DOL rule would lead to substantial wage losses to ag workers. The said in its order the plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their case.

The court ordered both parties to submit a proposed order within 14 days that includes deadlines for the Department of Labor to set the 2021 adverse effect wage rate.  What the 2021 AEWR will be or how the DOL will defend the lawsuit going forward remain open questions.

As previously reported in Spotlight, the UFW recently sued and persuaded the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California to issue a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the USDA’s decision in September to suspend the annual Farm Labor Survey, which has been used by DOL to set the AEWR.

Click here to read the full U.S. District Court ruling.

For additional information or questions, please contact Jason Resnick at [email protected].