Godwin Hurley Donoghue, LLP

Workers' compensation changing for farmers in New York

Agriculture plays a significant role in the economy of the state of New York. Grapes and apples are both significant crops in the state and a large workforce is required to maintain and, in particular, to harvest the fruit. Long hours are needed to bring in the crops and prepare them for market. Until recently, farmworkers were not covered under workers' compensation law.

The governor recently signed a bill into law that offers farmworkers the same kinds of workers' compensation benefits enjoyed by people in other industries. The legislation, known as the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act, mandates overtime pay, requires that a worker have a minimum of 24 hours off in a seven-day period. It also provides for workers to receive workers' compensation and unemployment benefits.

Prior to this legislation being enacted, farmworkers were largely exempt from state labor protections. This law will also mandate injury reporting, which was not previously required. This law will provide New York's farmworkers with many of the protections enjoyed by other workers for more than 80 years. The law will impact approximately 100,000 farmers and their families. It goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

Farming as an industry is vital to New York and America's way of life. Without farmers, the ease of going to the grocery store or one's local farmer's market to get fresh produce would not be a reality. A person who is involved in the farming industry could benefit from seeking information from a knowledgeable professional to understand the details and benefits of the new law.

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