Temporary Worker Housing Frequently Asked Questions

What is a camp management plan?

Each migrant farmworker housing site must have a camp management plan. The plan assures that your housing is operated in a safe and secure manner and within its approved occupancy capacity. You need to inform your occupants of your camp management plan in a language the occupants can understand. Provide individual copies of the plan to each occupant or post the plan in a central area for them to see. For licensing purposes, you also need to provide a copy of your camp management plan to the Department of Health. For information about this requirement and sample plans in English and Spanish, see Camp Management Plan (Word).

Why are there different rules for cherry harvest housing?

The purpose for a separate rule for cherry harvest housing was to reduce the standards where possible to find some efficiency for the shorter, intensive harvest of cherries compared to other harvests. The cherry harvest rules allow reduced standards for cooking surfaces, refrigeration space and consideration of alternative structures such as the tents approved by the department for the cherry harvest only. There is a misconception that the cherry harvest rules only apply to tent camps. That is not the case. The cherry harvest rules only apply to housing of only cherry harvest workers, regardless of the type of structure used. While temporary worker housing (TWH) regular rules apply to housing of workers of any harvest or season and may be in addition to cherries, but not only cherry harvest. Sometimes confusing is the length of operation of a cherry camp in relation to the cherry harvest. Under the cherry license, the occupancy of cherry harvest camps is permitted to extend from one week before the expected start of the cherry harvest through one week following the end of the harvest, according to the length of the harvest worked by the housing occupants.

How are complaints handled?

The department accepts complaints, referrals and information concerning migrant farmworker housing, alleging unlicensed operation or violation of the TWH health and safety standards from anyone and in any format. When we receive a complaint and determine an investigation is needed, we conduct an unannounced investigation of the housing. The investigation findings are reviewed and we determine what action to take. The department may take action such as: close the case, continue the investigation, require a compliance plan, take legal action such as issuing a fine, revoking the license or closing the facility. The department may conduct follow-up inspections to verify corrections have been made or that the facility has closed. To contact us with a complaint or for more information about filing a complaint, call 360-236-3393 or email HousingComplaints@doh.wa.gov.

What are the fees and fines associated with Migrant Farmworker Housing?

What is H-2A?

H-2A is the coding number for a "guest worker" program administered by the Employment Security Department, oversight by U.S. Department of Labor. For information see Employment Security Department's H-2A webpage.

What if the housing occupants are illegal or undocumented?

The documentation or legal status of people related to migrant farmworker housing isn't within the department's jurisdiction.

Is there an inspection list to help prepare for an inspection?

To prepare for our inspection, you may use the inspection checklist (PDF). It lists the compliance areas in which we look when conducting an inspection.

Do labor contractors need to be licensed?

If a labor contractor provides housing for migrant farmworkers or manages the housing arrangement, the labor contractor is also considered the housing operator. As the housing operator, the labor contractor must comply with the TWH regulations and become licensed if they meet licensing criteria. Labor contractors are regulated by the Department of Labor & Industries.

How does licensing work?

See the License Requirements webpage to learn about RCW and WAC regulations. Also see our Licensing Process webpage to learn about the various steps in the licensing process.

How can I tell if temporary worker housing at my site is a permitted land use?

The legislature made it a permitted use to develop migrant farmworker housing in certain areas, Chapter 70.114A.050 RCW, housing on rural worksites. This permitted land use for migrant farmworker housing overrides local zoning regulations except for the building height and setback, and road access requirements of the local zone. Permitable areas for development of migrant farmworker housing is established in Chapter 70.114A.050 RCW. The statute reads:

"Temporary worker housing located on a rural worksite, and used for workers employed on the worksite, shall be considered a permitted use at the rural worksite for the purposes of zoning or other land use review processes, subject only to height, setback and road access requirements of the underlying zone."

How are refunds handled?

Refunds are handled according to WAC 246-358-990 (5).

Who else regulates migrant farmworker housing?

The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) regulates migrant farmworker housing where there is an employee-employer relationship. Employment Security Department (ESD) operates the H-2A program that includes migrant farmworker housing requirement and has an employee-employer relationship. U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) regulates migrant farmworker housing provided through an employee-employer relationship.

Can my migrant farmworker housing be "same farm exempt?"

"Same farm exemption" is in the drinking water rules and refers to an exemption from testing requirements for small farms with four or fewer water connections for residences. However, if the farm provides migrant farmworker housing that is required to be licensed temporary worker housing the water system serving the migrant farmworker housing is considered a public water system (PWS) and must be compliant with drinking water rules for public water systems. In other words, migrant farmworker housing that is required to be licensed cannot claim the "same farm exemption."

What is the self survey program?

See the Self-Survey webpage page to learn how operators may be approved to inspect their own facilities.

Which is it: migrant farmworker housing or temporary worker housing?

More information about whether it's a migrant farmworker housing (MFH) or temporary worker housing (TWH) is on our website. There's also information about where these terms originated and how they're used today.

Are tents okay as housing?

See the Tents webpage to learn about the specific guidelines that must be followed in order for tents to be used as temporary housing.

What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking is a crime typically in the form of slavery or indentured servitude. It's a state crime under RCW 9A.40.100 and it's also a federal crime. Human trafficking is pervasive in the agriculture industry. More information about it is on Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network's (WARN) website; you may also see our External Links webpage for additional resources.

May I get a variance on a rule?

The department has a variance process available to operators if/when a rule's use is not practical for them. Contact us at 360-236-3393 or Housing@doh.wa.gov for an application or instructions.

How do I get my water tested?

See the Drinking Water/Public Water System Licensing Requirements webpage to learn about getting your water tested.