NY lawmakers pass law expanding workers’ comp rights to farms

A position within the agricultural industry can lead to a rewarding and enjoyable profession. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimate over 2,050,000 workers have a full-time position within this industry. Like many popular forms of employment, farming has its dangers. An estimated 100 agricultural workers suffer from injuries that take them off the field every single day and hundreds die while working in this profession every year.

What laws protect farmers?

The 1935 National Labor Relations Act does not extend to cover agricultural workers. As a result, states put together their own legislation to address farm labor issues. In New York, workers’ compensation coverage was only required if the farm had over $1,200 in payroll the previous year.

New York lawmakers recently passed a new law to help expand the rights of farm workers.

What did the law change?

The Farm Workers Fair Practices Act results in these four key changes:

  • Collective bargaining. The new law allows farm and other agricultural workers the ability to come together as a group and exercise collective bargaining rights.
  • Overtime. These changes also better ensure these workers receive overtime pay. The law essentially limits a farm workers’ hours to a 60-hour work week and requires overtime at one and one-half times the normal pay rate.
  • Workers’ comp. The act removes the previous payroll threshold noted above. As a result, state law now generally requires farm labor employers obtain workers’ compensation coverage for their workers.
  • Unemployment. The law also extends provisions of unemployment insurance law to farm laborers.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the law in July of 2019, stating it would result in the realization of the “constitutional principles of equality, fairness and due process” that was long overdue within this industry.

Why is this important?

Those in the agricultural business face serious dangers at the workplace. NIOSH states agriculture is “among the most hazardous industries.” Farmers and their family members are at risk for both fatal and non-fatal workplace injuries.

What are common injuries within the agricultural industry?

Injuries can include severe abrasions and contusions as well as loss of limbs from farming equipment, illness or injury from pesticide exposure, pulmonary disease, hearing loss and stress. Agricultural workers who sustain an injury while on-the-job may be eligible for compensation through the workers’ comp program. Those who feel their claim was wrongfully denied have options, contact an attorney to better ensure your rights are protected.