New York Extends Labor Protections to Farm Workers

Author: Robert S. Teachout, XpertHR Legal Editor

July 29, 2019

A new law extends collective bargaining rights, overtime and other labor protections to farm workers in New York. Farm laborers are not protected in these areas by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act or the National Labor Relations Act.

The Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act amends the New York State Labor Relations Act (LRA) by repealing the exemption from the law for farm laborers and expressing adding them to the definition of "employees." It also adds agricultural employer as "employers."

Among its provisions, the Act:

  • Permits farm laborers to organize a union and engage in collective bargaining;
  • Includes agricultural labor as employment for unemployment insurance purposes;
  • Mandates a day of rest for farm laborers; and
  • Requires overtime pay after 60 work hours per week.

In addition, the Act makes it an unfair labor practice for farm laborers or their representatives to engage in a strike, a work stoppage or a slowdown. It also will be an unfair labor practice for an agricultural employer to:

  • Lock out its laborers;
  • Discourage union organizing;
  • Discourage an employee from engaging in protected concerted activity or otherwise exercising rights guaranteed by the law; or
  • Refuse to continue all the terms of an expired agreement until a new agreement is negotiated.

The new law also establishes a bargaining impasse procedure that includes mediation and binding arbitration. The new law takes effect January 1, 2020.