Employers are required to have workers’ compensation insurance on their workers if cash wages are or exceed $1,200 in a year. If you host unpaid interns and apprentices on your farm, they must also be covered by workers’ compensation (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. Download the Employers’ Handbook at http://www.goer.ny.gov/Employee_Resources/employee_handbook/2011Employee_Handbook.pdf for more information.
The Urban Agricultural Legal Resource Library (http://www.urbanaglaw.org/) provides additional information on employment law as it applies to urban farmers, including information on the use of volunteer labor and services.
As of the revision date noted on this fact sheet, the Federal Minimum Wage is $7.25/hour. The New York State Minimum Wage is also $8.25/hour. 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.
Volunteer-matching websites such as Get Dirty NYC! (http://getdirtynyc.com/) and Volunteer Match (http://www.volunteermatch.org/) allow you to advertise your urban farm operation and recruit potential volunteers. Note that Volunteer Match is for use only by non-profits.
Employers must keep an I-9 form from the US Citizenship and Immigration Service on file for all employees. The I-9 requires copies of documentation (a driver’s license and social security card for most), however, the employer is not required to verify that these documents are valid. The form is available from U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services at http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis.
For more information about federal regulations for agricultural employers, download the IRS Publication 51, Agricultural Employers Tax Guide at www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p51.pdf.
Given the complexities and liabilities of properly administering payroll, it is recommended that small employers hire a payroll service from a local accounting firm. Though expensive, this frees the employer from the liabilities of missing a form deadline, improperly handling a payroll withholding account, and avoids the need to stay current with the various labor forms and regulations at both the state and federal level.