Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Employers are required to have workers’ compensation insurance on their workers if cash wages exceeded $1,200 in the preceding year. Coverage must be obtained effective April 1st of the year immediately following the year where the farm had $1,200 of payroll. If you host unpaid interns and apprentices on your farm, they must also be covered by workers’ comp (the training and/or room and board you provide them is valued in lieu of wages). The only exception to this is if your farm is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. To learn more, download the Employers’ Handbook: http://www.goer.ny.gov/Employee_Resources/employee_handbook/2011Employee_Handbook.pdf.
Insurance can be purchased from the New York State Insurance Fund (http://ww3.nysif.com/), private insurers, or an employer can form/join a self-insurance group if they meet various requirements and post bond.
State law requires that employees be covered by a disability benefit if they are disabled off the job. Most workers compensation insurance will also include this. Family members (spouse or child) and farm laborers are exempt from this requirement. Farm corporate officers and office workers need disability benefits coverage. If the farm is held as a corporation or LLC then the family member exemption does not apply because no one is related to a business entity.
As of the revision date noted on this fact sheet, the Federal Minimum Wage is $7.25/hr. The New York State Minimum Wage is $8.00/hr, increasing to $8.75/hr by 2015 and $9.00/hr by 2016. This wage minimum applies to regular wage jobs and piece-rate jobs on farms with annual payroll over $3,000. It excludes immediate family and minors under 17 years of age employed on the same farm as their parents or guardians who are paid on a piece-rate basis at the same rate as employees over 17.
The wage order permits deductions for meals and lodging supplied by an employer, except for lodging for seasonal migrant workers. Payments in kind may be permitted at not more than the farm market value.
Employers must post a summary of the wage order in a conspicuous place in their establishment, along with a copy of the general work agreement.
Note that farmers have a lot of liability in this area: if an underpaid apprentice complains to the Labor Department, the farmer may have to pay the back pay plus interest and fines to the state.
Youth Rate Certificate for Farm Work
In agriculture you can legally pay children under the age of 16 (with a permit and other criteria satisfied) a minimum of $3.20/hr for their first season of harvest; several other minimums apply depending on the work. You must file a Youth Rate Certificate (http://www.labor.state.ny.us/workerprotection/laborstandards/PDFs/LS415_1.PDF) to hire youth for less than minimum wage.
If you employ your own minor age children on the farm, they are exempt from all minimum wage regulation, meaning that they can be paid any wage. This only applies to your own children; nieces/nephews or other minor age family members are subject to state wage laws.
Youth Labor (excluding your own children)
You may not hire anyone 11 years or younger in New York State. 12- and 13-year-olds may work in harvest operations if they have Permit AT-25 and are accompanied by a parent during certain times of the day and year. 14- and 15-year-olds may work on farms with Permit AT-24 during non-school hours. Permits and working papers may be obtained from school offices. Farm workers under 16 are prohibited from performing farm tasks involving power machinery. 16- and 17-year-olds may work on farms without permits or working papers.
Under NYS Child Labor law, 14 & 15 year-olds are allowed to work 18 hrs/week when school is in session and 40 hrs/week when school is not in session. 16 & 17 year-olds are allowed to work 28 hrs/week when school is in session and 48 hrs/week when school is not in session.
Contact your local NYS Department of Labor Office for more details: www.labor.state.ny.us/.
Migrant Workers (Workers who do not have a permanent residence in New York State)
A farmer or processor who uses the services of a farm labor contractor or crew leader must verify that that person has a Farm Labor Contractor Certificate of Registration issued by the New York State Department of Labor.
Growers and processors who bring in five or more workers from out of state must obtain a Migrant Labor Registration Certificate (www.labor.state.ny.us/formsdocs/wp/ls113.pdf) and report wages, housing, and working condition to the state. If you plan to house five or more workers you must obtain a farm labor camp permit from the State Department of Labor (www.labor.state.ny.us/formsdocs/wp/ls113.1.pdf).
Workers must be given written notice of wages, nature of work, period of employment, transportation, housing, benefits, and more. Several Spanish/English work forms are available at http://www.labor.ny.gov/formsdocs/wp/ellsformsandpublications.shtm#Farm_Labor
For more information contact: NYS Dept. of Labor, 518-457-9000, www.labor.state.ny.us or extension agent Thomas Maloney, 607-255-1628, firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also purchase the NY Farm Bureau’s Guide to Labor and Employment Laws for $75, or $40 for members, at http://www.nyfb.org/img/uploads/file/Legal_Guides_Flyer_3_.pdf.