February 2, 2023

New Higher H-2A Wage Rate for Wine Grape General Vineyard Workers for CA North Coast

The California Employment Development Department (“EDD”) recently submitted a new Domestic Agricultural In-Season Wage Report to the Department of Labor (“DOL”),  which sets a new Prevailing Wage of $19.65 for H-2A agricultural workers engaged in general vineyard work (i.e., pre-harvest activities) in wine grapes.  The new prevailing wage for such H-2A activities applies to the North Coast of California wage reporting area which covers Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma, and Trinity counties.  

H-2A employers are required to pay the highest of the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (“AEWR”), the agreed-upon collective bargaining wage, the Federal minimum wage, the State minimum wage, or the prevailing wage.  Typically, the applicable wage is the AEWR, which is $18.65 as of January 1, 2023. However, “Wine Grape, General Vineyard Workers” in the North Coast must now be paid the prevailing wage of $19.65 to their H-2A workers and their domestic workers in corresponding employment. 

DOL posts prevailing wage rates approved by the Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) Administrator on the Department’s Agricultural Online Wage Library (AOWL), available here.  DOL encourages employers to check the prevailing wage information posted in the AOWL when preparing a Form ETA-790A, H-2A job order for submission, and periodically after receiving temporary labor certification, to determine the current prevailing wage rate applicable to the employer’s job opportunity. A prevailing wage rate remains valid for one year from the posting date or until replaced with an adjusted prevailing wage rate, whichever comes first.  

Employers are not technically required to pay this new rate until they have received written notice from the Chicago National Processing Center (“NPC”) but the new wage rate is retroactive to the date it went into effect, which in this case was November 8, 2022. Employers who have paid less than the increased wage after November 8, 2022 will have to issue new checks for the difference between the AEWR and the prevailing rate and issue corrected wage statements. Failure to timely provide corrected wage statements may trigger substantial waiting time penalties for separated workers.