Oklahoma Farm and Ranch Employment Handbook
The employment laws that apply to agriculture can be challenging. We all remember the old saying “There is an exception to every rule.” When talking about employment law and agriculture, though, there needs to be another saying: “There’s an exception to every rule, and then there is an exception to every exception for agriculture.” Labor law in the United States has long recognized that the agricultural industry operates in a unique environment and under unique demands. Lawmakers tried to accommodate those circumstances with specially-crafted rules that apply to our farms and ranchers. In so doing, though, they also created a complex legal landscape for the agricultural industry. With a little homework, though, farmers and ranchers can avoid many employment law pitfalls and can recruit and maintain a quality workforce that adds to their bottom line.
The complexity of employment law is not the only challenge faced by agricultural employers, though. In the near future, agricultural employers may face an increasingly competitive labor market. As the world economy improves from its recent recession, it is anticipated that over the next ten years, American employers will have 10 million fewer workers to meet their labor needs due to slowing population growth and mass retirements of Baby Boomers from the work force.1 As a result, it is important for agricultural employers to not only understand the laws that apply to them, but also how to create a workplace where employees want to work.
This handbook will examine how many of the most significant employment laws apply in the agricultural context proceeding from the recruitment and hiring of employees through their time with the employer and their eventual separation from the employer. This handbook will also discuss some of the practicalities of interacting with employees, who are, after all, human resources.