Continue Using the Current I-9 Form

Very sharp HR managers may have noticed that the current Form I-9 is set to expire on 08/31/2019. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) just released a notice that employers should continue to use the current form after this expiration date until further notice, see USCIS note below. You can find helpful information and an I-9 Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for farm employers at Cornell Ag Workforce Development’s Authorization to Work page.

USCIS Notice appears below…


Continue to Use the Current Form I-9 for Employment Eligibility Verification

Until further notice, employers should continue using the Form I-9 currently available on I-9 Central, even after the expiration date of Aug. 31, has passed.

We will provide updated information about the new version of the Form I-9 as it becomes available.

Employers must complete Form I-9 for all newly-hired employees to verify their identity and authorization to work in the United States.

“Farm Focused” Sexual Harassment Prevention Training

A team of Cornell Cooperative Extension educators recently adapted New York State’s model sexual harassment prevention training materials to be more relevant to the farm workplace. NY State DOL reviewed these materials to be sure they meet the content requirements and now they are ready for release. You will find both a presentation that teaches about sexual harassment and set of case studies that illustrate it in more detail. The presentation and case studies are available in English and Spanish and in PowerPoint or video format. You can use the PowerPoints as visual aids if you choose to do the presentation and review the case studies yourself. Or, you can show the video recordings of the presentation and case studies to train your farm employees.Stop Sexual Harrassment

We developed a comprehensive farm sexual harassment prevention resource page on the Cornell Agricultural Workforce Development website. The site contains a step-by-step guide to help a farm business meet New York’s requirements for employer sexual harassment prevention policies and training. Find the new resources under Step 5.

A few reminders as you prepare for the training:

  1. Treat it seriously. You could have someone in your workforce experiencing harassment right now.
  2. Customize your policy for your farm and put it in place before you do the training.
  3. Customize the “Sexual Harassment Prevention Poster/Notice” and distribute copies to your employees at the training.
  4. Be sure that you include an interactive portion such as a question and answer session, or brief feedback survey with your employees. You can pause the videos to create opportunities for interactive questions and discussion.
  5. Document your training activities.
  6. All New York employers are required to complete the training each year with all employees. The due date for this first time is October 9, 2019!

By Richard Stup, Cornell University. Permission granted to repost, quote, and reprint with author attribution.
The post “Farm Focused” Sexual Harassment Prevention Training appeared first on Cornell Agricultural Workforce Development

Disability Insurance, Paid Family Leave, and Farm Employees

The New York legislation to change farm labor laws will affect farm employee’s eligibility for disability insurance and Paid Family Leave insurance. Farm employees were exempt from these two requirements under the old laws but that will change on January 1, 2020. This situation is causing some confusion for farm employers at this time so I wanted to attempt to clarify.

Present Situation

At present, and continuing through the end of 2019, farm laborers are exempt from the state’s disability insurance and Paid Family Leave requirements. Agricultural laborers or farm laborers are defined in New York State’s Labor Law as “employees that perform duties in connection with the operation, management, conservation, improvement, or maintenance of a farm and its tools and equipment. Farm-specific duties include, but are not limited to, cultivating the soil; raising or harvesting any agricultural or horticultural commodity, including the raising, shearing, feeding, caring for, training, and management of livestock, bees, poultry, and fur-bearing animals, and wildlife; and handling, planting, drying, packing, packaging, processing, freezing, grading, storing, or delivering to storage or to market or to a carrier for transportation to market, any agricultural or horticultural commodity.” In other words, farm “laborers” are those employees who are directly engaged in agricultural production. Other farm employees, such as retail farm stand employees, are not currently exempt and should have disability and Paid Family Leave already. Employers can provide these benefits to all of their employees, including farm laborers if they wish, but they are not required to do so.

Beginning January 1, 2020

Beginning with the new year, farm workers will no longer be exempt from certain benefits including the requirements for disability insurance and Paid Family Leave. Farm employers will need to work with a state-authorized insurance carrier to get disability insurance in place for employees that includes a rider for Paid Family Leave. A list of New York- approved insurance companies offering paid family leave riders can be found here. Both of these insurance benefits allow for some employee payroll deductions to fund premiums, in different ways. Disability insurance premiums can be paid in part by the employee (one half of one percent of gross wages up to 60 cents per week); the balance of the premium is paid by the employer. Premiums for Paid Family Leave insurance can be fully funded by employees, or the employer can elect to pay for the benefits.

For employers with part-time or seasonal employees it may be possible to obtain a waiver of paid family leave coverage if certain employees will not work enough to meet the minimum eligibility requirements. That is:

  • if they regularly work less than 20 hours per week and will not work 175 days in a year, or
  • if they regularly work 20 or more hours per week, but won’t be in employment for 26 consecutive weeks.

The farm employer must provide the waiver form to all employees who qualify for one. (The waiver is found at

More information on Paid Family Leave is found at Forms in eight languages are also found here.

By Richard Stup, Cornell University. Permission granted to repost, quote, and reprint with author attribution.
The post Disability Insurance, Paid Family Leave, and Farm Employees appeared first on Cornell Agricultural Workforce Development

Complying with Sexual Harassment Prevention Training in New York

All New York employers are required to have a sexual harassment prevention training policy in place since October 2018 and they are required to train all employees by October 9, 2019. See details in previous article.Stop Sexual Harrassment

Cornell Cooperative Extension Educators are planning a series of meetings and webinars to help farm employers learn about the requirements and resources they can use to get into compliance. See the detailed Flyer and registration information here: Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Flyer July 2019

We have prepared new, farm-friendly training materials for farm employers to use. These materials will meet the state’s training requirements. Please join the meeting to learn more.

Richard Stup, Cornell Agricultural Workforce Development


Dramatic Changes for Farm Labor Management in New York

Everyone in New York agriculture is aware of the recent, epic political struggle about the state’s farm labor laws. As of this writing, the proposed bill was passed by the New York Senate and Assembly but the Governor has not yet signed it into law. With the understanding that some things could still change, it’s time for us to start thinking about how to manage in a different legal environment. The essential goals for farm human resource managers remain the same:

  1. Operate a profitable, growing agricultural business.
  2. Provide high-quality, engaging, and safe jobs that can attract farm employees and provide them a good standard of living.
  3. Produce excellent, safe, and nutritious food for people who live both near and far.

We know the broad outlines of the changes that will likely take effect on January 1, 2020. Our challenge is to plan and manage to meet the goals above while complying with federal and (new) state labor laws. First, we need to understand the changes that will likely occur in state labor law, this article begins discussion of 3 major changes: overtime, collective bargaining, and a weekly day of Clock face with the words changing times as the Each of these issues is complicated and we will discuss more completely in later posts, but following is my summary of these major changes and initial management considerations.


New York farm employees will be eligible for overtime once they have completed 60 hours of work in a week. Overtime pay is defined as 1.5 times the regular rate of pay so a worker at $12/hour regularly would go to $18/hour for hours worked beyond 60 inside a week. Managers need to be thinking about the financial implications of this change on the business and on employees. It will be more important than ever to control which employees are scheduled for how many hours and to be mindful of hours worked as they approach 60 in each week. This may be a good time to upgrade your scheduling and time recording systems to provide the information, alerts, and accurate records you need. Consider each production process, system, and job in your business…where can you cut out waste and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of labor? Are there parts of your production process that could be outsourced to another business, or discontinued, while you focus your labor on crops and processes with the highest return?

What about salary pay, can a farm simply convert employees from hourly to salary pay to avoid overtime? With the farm labor overtime exemption changing in New York some farm employers might consider using other exemptions from overtime, but caution is required here. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides exemptions from overtime and minimum wage for certain workers and these federal guidelines are generally followed by New York. However, federal law limits the exemptions to only certain types of employees, mainly: executive, administrative, professional and outside sales employees. The New York State Depart of Labor provides an FAQ document that defines these types of employees in more detail. Some farm employees may qualify for this exemption such as those who manage a department and formally supervise 2 or more other full-time equivalent employees.  (Note that New York employers must meet the state minimums for weekly salary of $832/week in Upstate and $900/week in Long Island and West Chester.)

Collective Bargaining (Unions)

The Legal Information Institute at Cornell offers the following definition: “Collective bargaining refers to the negotiation process between an employer and a union comprised of workers to create an agreement that will govern the terms and conditions of the workers’ employment.” Farm employees will have the right to form or join a union in order to bargain as a group with their employer about their employment. This concept is incredibly complicated and quite new to most of us in agriculture so there will be much more discussion and education in the future about the meaning and implications of this change. Farm employees are not automatically unionized by this law, a majority of farm employees at a particular business must choose to sign up with a union in order to bargain collectively. If a majority of employees at a farm business choose to join the union, then the farm would be obligated to recognize the union and enter into negotiations to establish a union contract with the farm employees. Contract negotiations are complicated and beyond the scope of this post. There are some special limitations in the new law that will govern collective bargaining. Farm employees will not be permitted to strike or otherwise slowdown work on farms. Farm employers, on the other hand, are not permitted to “lock out” or prevent farm employees from working during the course of contract negotiations.

Broadly speaking, employees tend to unionize in work situations where they feel as if they have no “voice.” Essentially, that’s the purpose of a union, to move employees from a position of feeling like powerless individuals to a position of feeling like a powerful “collective” group of employees. Employers who wish to avoid having a union must focus on being great, progressive human resource managers. That means having policies and plans in the workplace that promote employee success, fair treatment, and employee “voice.” Great HR managers have a way of making employees feel engaged and committed at work, and of fostering constant and open communications. In contrast, overbearing, callous, and dictatorial managers breed employee frustration and open the door wide for unionization efforts.

Weekly Day of Rest

The new law will likely stipulate that farm employees must be allowed at least 24 consecutive hours of rest in each and every calendar week. This day of rest should be on the employee’s day of religious observance whenever possible, but it can move to another day in the week if crop or weather conditions prevent work. Employee’s can voluntarily waive their day of rest and choose to work but employers would have to pay the overtime rate (1.5X) for every hour they worked on their day of rest. This new requirement is rife with potential for confusion. Farm human resource managers need to adopt very robust employee scheduling and timekeeping systems that can manage day of rest requirements and provide documentation that it was consistently provided.

We’re embarking on a whole new era in farm human resource management in New York. We already know that employees will remain scarce and expensive, our challenge is to maximize the talent and productivity of every employee while maintaining excellent employee relationships and engagement. Excellent human resource management will emerge as not just as a distinguishing feature of the state’s best farm businesses, but as a requirement for farm business success.

By Richard Stup, Cornell University. Permission granted to repost, quote, and reprint with author attribution.
The post Dramatic Changes for Farm Labor Management in New York appeared first on Cornell Agricultural Workforce Development