What is in this article?:
- Joint liability opens can of worms for growers, PCAs
- Pending litigation
- Cal/OSHA under the gun
Why should growers start having conversations now with their PCA's and ag labor contractors?
Amy Wolfe, center, speaks with CAPCA attendees after her presentation on joint employer liability.
That pending case is Arredondo v. Delano Farms. While it originally centered on alleged state and federal wage and hour violations, the case quickly became one of joint employer liability as the plaintiffs were successful in connecting Delano Farms with their FLC’s. Delano Farms grows 6,300 acres of grapes in California’s San Joaquin Valley.
According to Wolfe, attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that the farm labor contractors “were simply doing what the grower told them,” and therefore Delano Farms was legally liable for the wage and hour violations of the farm labor contractor.
Delano Farms has appealed the court’s decision related to the joint employer liability.
Wolfe’s point was not to go into the details of the court case, but to use it as a beacon to highlight how joint employer liability will forever change the legal landscape. Because of joint liability, growers and their PCA’s (or any other professional the grower employs full time or by contract) will need to discuss with farm labor contractors the various hazards of the job, and document those discussions and the training sessions they conduct.
According to Wolfe, documenting training sessions and having written safety rules should be part of the every-day routine in agriculture. Since 1991 California has required businesses to have a written safety program, yet when state regulators inspect farming operations it remains one of the top-three most cited violations in agriculture.
While growers who use farm labor contractors try to maintain an arm’s-length relationship with them, Wolfe argues that the risks are too dangerous. Given the litigious nature of farm labor unions and the regulatory reach of the state agencies involved, Wolfe says growers and their PCA’s must work closely with farm labor contractors to ensure their employees understand the hazards involved with their jobs.
“Look at the political environment,” Wolfe said. “In the last three legislative sessions there have been bills written related to farm labor contractors.”
For instance, PCA’s need to ensure that laborers are fully aware of pesticide label rules, including re-entry periods. Those training sessions need to be documented, she said. Communicating with neighboring farms and their contract workers will also be necessary as it relates to spraying operations and other potentially hazardous conditions.