Working with a farm labor contractor to supply the necessary workforce on a farming operation does not eliminate the liability risk for the grower in the event of an accident. With any type of injury sustained on the property by an employee of a contractor, including physical or financial, a grower can still be held responsible.
“There is a fallacy that exists out there that by hiring a contractor, I as a grower have built an impenetrable firewall and I no longer have to worry about any of the risks inherent with workers on my property,” said AgSafe President and CEO Amy Wolfe. “Both state and federal law make it very clear: you will have some degree of liability if you are a grower who is engaging a farm labor contractor.”
Employing a contractor to supply the necessary farm labor does not eliminate oversight responsibility on behalf of the grower. It’s important for growers to stay involved with the activities taking place on their property and make sure their contractor is credible and accountable. Even in instances of a longstanding working relationship, Wolfe suggests growers conduct an annual review of their farm labor contractor’s paperwork including “his license, his federal certificate of registration, proof of workers comp insurance. I want to see some training records.”
Not only should a contracted employee be properly trained and qualified for the particular work they are performing on a farm, but the contractor also needs to be compensating them according to applicable labor laws. “The thing that we’re seeing that brings much more financial liability is on the human resources side, its on the wages side,” said Wolfe, “payroll, payroll tax, overtime, non-productive time.”
Wolfe noted that AgSafe has a checklist available that details all of the information growers should be reviewing with their farm labor contractor. While conducting an annual review with a particular contractor may be a bit time consuming, the alternative could end up costing significantly more than just time. In the unfortunate event of a work-related accident, a grower could be put at risk if the contractor that was hired is ultimately found to be at fault. “You will sacrifice your business for the failings of the farm labor contractor that you’re using if you don’t take the time to vet the farm labor contractor,” Wolfe said.
Listen to Wolfe’s interview below.