An historic law affecting all of New York State now extends workers’ compensation rights to the state’s farm workers, along with many of the other protections long required for most of the state’s other workers.

A long wait for rights other workers expect

The Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act (FLPA) requires the employers of farm laborers to cover their workers with workers’ compensation insurance. It also extends disability benefits eligibility to farm laborers.

Notices, in both English and Spanish, describing workers’ eligibility for workers’ compensation must now be posted by all employers of even farm laborers.

The legislation, Senate Bill 6578 and Assembly Bill 8419, was passed by both houses of the New York legislature on June 19, or Freedom Day as it’s known particularly among African Americans. The law erases many exemptions that eased regulations at farm production operations, especially in the areas of public health and labor rights and benefits.

New York State’s farmworkers have been prevented from accessing many of the rights available to other workers since the labor laws of the 1930s were enacted. The new changes were largely brought about because a May ruling by a New York appeals court found exclusion of farmworkers from labor protections to be unconstitutional.

Many more worker protections in the new law

The FLPA includes many protections beyond workers comp and disability benefits.

It requires overtime pay for laborers working more than 60 hours in a week. Although the bill had originally aimed for a 40-hour cap, the limit was increased to accommodate advocates for agriculture business in which long work weeks are routine in certain seasons.

It also requires laborers to be covered by unemployment insurance, and for sanitary codes to apply in labor camps housing farm laborers.

Among the controversial provisions of the bill is the requirement of 24 consecutive hours of rest per week. FLPA allows the employer’s parents, spouses and children to be exempted, as farming is often a family business. Many famers and ag advocates wanted the exemption extended to nephews, nieces and cousins.