Farm workers are often exempted from labor laws that govern wages and hours, regulate working conditions, and guarantee the right to organize. But that is no longer the case in the state of New York, where the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act (FLFLPA) was passed on June 18, 2019 and is expected to be signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo imminently. As a result, farms that engage or permit anyone other than an immediate family member (e.g., spouse, parent, or child) to perform work will need to understand the suite of new protections offered by the FLFLPA and to adjust their labor practices to comply by January 1, 2020. 

The FLFLPA, a controversial piece of legislation passed at the behest of civil liberties and worker justice advocates over the concerns of several farmer groups, extends an array of protections to the approximately 100,000 workers who labor on farms across the state including

  • Organizing: Deeming individuals employed as farm laborers as “employees” under the New York State Employment Relations Act, enabling farm laborers to organize, unionize, collectively bargain and more effectively exercise collective voice, while enjoying protection from lockouts;

  • Workers’ Compensation: Expanding workers’ compensation coverage; requiring that all employers post notices regarding their compliance with workers’ compensation requirements in both English and Spanish; mandating that claim forms be provided to injured laborers, requiring that labor contractors and supervisors with knowledge of worker injuries report the same to employers, and prohibiting retaliation against farm laborers who make workers’ compensation claims;

  • Disability: Establishing farm laborer eligibility for disability benefits;

  • Unemployment Insurance: Providing access to unemployment insurance benefits for all farm laborers, while eliminating the need for employers to make unemployment contributions in connection with the employment of seasonal H-2A visa workers who cannot collect the benefits;

  • Overtime Pay: Mandating premium overtime pay at 1.5 times the regular rate of pay for farm laborers who work more than 60 hours per calendar week; and establishing a Farm Laborers Wage Board to provide recommendations regarding additional overtime for farm laborers;

  • Housing Standards: Mandating the establishment of sanitary standards for farm and food processing labor camps used for housing
  • Rest: Guaranteeing 24 consecutive hours of rest each week, while allowing workers to waive this protection and elect to work on their day off (when work is available) for overtime pay;

In so doing, the FLFLPA corrects for the historical exemption of agricultural laborers from the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act, and comparable state laws.  The legislation is based, in part, on a legislative finding that:

Despite regularly working 50, 60, 70 or even more hours a week doing arduous and 9 difficult work, often with heavy equipment, pesticides, fertilizers and other dangerous materials and in sometimes hazardous situations, farm laborers remain excluded from collective bargaining statutes and the right to a day of rest, overtime and other labor protections that are in place at the state and/or federal level for other workers.


Accordingly, the FLFLPA aims to transition the New York agricultural sector into a “modern structure of rights and benefits for farm laborers” while also “achieving harmonious labor relations and stability of operations in the agricultural industry.” To this end, the FLFLPA, extends a measure of protection to farmers by it prohibiting farm laborers from striking against agricultural employers or even engaging in a concerted stoppage or slowdown of work. This limitation is intended to prevent farm laborers from unfairly leveraging collective power during critical parts of a crop cycle, such as during peak harvest periods, when farmers are entirely dependent on available labor and have severely diminished bargaining power. State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, emphasized the critical balancing of interests, noting:  “The agriculture industry is crucial to New York’s economy and workforce. Today we are standing up for farm laborers and giving them the rights that they deserve while continuing to work with the agriculture industry to help them be successful.”