In some states, farm workers are among the classes of employees who aren't guaranteed workers' compensation benefits. This is despite the fact that workers' compensation benefits both employees and employers. So, why would farm workers be excluded from these benefits? Here are three reasons given the exclusion:
Difficulty with Administrative Duties
Farmers would find it extremely difficult to undertake the administrative duties that workers' compensation insurers and state laws demand. When an employer buys workers' compensation insurance, they are required to keep immaculate records about their business operations and to maintain up-to-date accounting.
For example, New York State requires employers to keep records of the number of employees they employ, their wages and all accidents that the employees incur. Even accidents that don't trigger workers' compensation claim processing should be recorded.
From a farm worker's point of view, it's difficult to agree that this reasoning applies to all farmers. After all, many farms are highly mechanized and encompass huge tracts of land, which means they have adequate-enough turnover to incur the additional administrative costs associated with workers' compensation insurance.
Difficulty in Passing the Costs to the Consumer
Another common reason is that farmers cannot be expected to incur the additional costs associated with workers' compensation insurance because they would have to pass the costs on to the final consumers of their products. Those who argue this maintain that other industries, such as industries that manufacture household products, have more leeway with regards to price control and adjustment; they can pass their operational costs to their consumers. According to this school of thought, if a state made the insurance mandatory for all farmers, the farmers would be at a disadvantage when competing with farmers from other states. They also argue that it is in each state's best interest to keep food prices low. Of course, this wouldn't be the case if all states made workers' compensation mandatory for farmers.
Farm Workers Aren't Employees
Another argument, and a rather weak one at that, is that farm workers aren't really employees. Proponents of this school of thought argue that many farm workers rely on family members, seasonal workers, and casual workers; these people do not fit the classical definition of employees.
Are you a disgruntled farm worker who feels that you are entitled to workers' compensation insurance? The good news is that things are beginning to change, albeit at a slower and expensive pace. For example, the New Mexico Court of Appeals recently ruled that farm employees are entitled to workers' compensation insurance, just like other workers. Contact a lawyer like Dennis Kenny Atty if you wish to challenge your state's law on exemptions; they will help you evaluate what can be done.