Here are some of the most common violations I've observed:
I only hire independent contractors. Calling someone an independent contractor doesn't make them one. Whether or not a worker is an independent contractor or an employee is a legal determination that is based on a number of factors. Treating a worker as an independent contractor when he or she should be treated as an employee can result in significant legal liability for an employer, including fines, penalties, and back taxes. Click here for an earlier post on this issue.
Ill find myself a hard-working Mexican. I must confess that I was astonished the first (and second, and third) time I heard a farmer or barn owner say something like this. It is apparently common practice among some agricultural employers to seek out workers who may or may not be authorized to work in the United States, who are grateful for any work they can find, and who will agree to work long hours for low pay. These workers are often Hispanic, always paid in cash (see above), may not receive minimum wage (ditto), certainly don't receive benefits, and its assumed that they aren't likely to complain about anything because of their immigration status. Common practice or not, everything about this is wrong, and the employer who engages in this sort of hiring is breaking the law.
Strong young man needed for handling horses. Discrimination laws apply to every employer who hires one or more employees (except when hiring a family member). Small agricultural employers are not exempt from the laws that prohibit discrimination in hiring based on gender, race, disability, age, religion, sexual orientation, disability, and other protected class status. There is nothing about agricultural work that changes an employers obligation to maintain a hiring system and a workplace free of discrimination.
I don't need workers comp or unemployment insurance. This may or may not be true. Some but not all family farms are exempt from the requirement to carry workers compensation and unemployment insurance, and the exemptions depend on complicated factors. In some states, including Minnesota, horse breeding and training operations - even if they qualify as a family farm - are specifically not exempted from workers compensation insurance requirements. Agricultural operations that aren't family farms usually don't qualify for exemption. In short, the law in this area is complicated, and its a big mistake for an agricultural employer to assume that insurance isn't needed.
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