AJP encourages farms to provide meals at low or no cost and to allow workers to take home the food they need to feed themselves and their families at no charge or at a discount.
Employee housing is governed by the Migrant and Seasonal Workers Protection Act (MSWPA) and OSHA, as well as by local zoning and building code regulations. Interns who do not return to their own permanent residence at night may be considered migrants, and their housing on the farm may be considered a “temporary farm labor camp.” Farmers who qualify for MSWPA’s 500 Man-Day exemption are exempt from MSWPA regulations but are still subject to OSHA regulations. However, if a farmer has employed 10 or fewer persons at all times during the past twelve months and is not currently maintaining a temporary labor camp, the farm qualifies as an “exempt workplace” under OSHA’s small farm exemption. This means that the farm operation is exempt from OSHA enforcement activity (i.e., inspection, etc.) but does not mean that the farm is exempt from the regulations themselves. Some states have state agencies that have additional regulations, and the farm labor camp definition varies from state to state. Consult local guidance for health and building codes you may need to comply with regarding worker housing.
If a farm provides housing to employees, AJP standards require that the housing meet legal standards, be safe, sanitary, private, free from contamination from hazardous materials, and maintained at a comfortable temperature. If the state allows the farm to charge rent, the rental fee must be limited, be based on a fair market rent, and not compromise the goal of paying living wages.
3.4.1. Tenants’ rights and housing conditions
All farmer-provided housing must be safe and sanitary.
Housing must conform to legal requirements, including health and safety: The housing provided must be weather proof, solid, spacious enough to comfortably accommodate number of people living in it (including adequate space for socializing during non-work hours), have lighting, electricity, potable water, toilets, and cooking facilities (unless all meals are provided by farmer), and be maintained at a comfortable temperature (60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, unless otherwise preferred by tenants.
Housing must have fire escapes or well-marked exits and fire extinguishers.
Workers living in farmer-provided housing must be provided full visitation rights, i.e. the right to receive visitors of their choosing. Such visitors might include but are not limited to friends, family members, representatives of unions or other organizations promoting the welfare of workers, or health care workers. Note: This provision does not preclude the farmer from developing reasonable rules for on-site housing designed to prevent unlawful tenants, or to limit noise or other disturbances to neighbors and/or other residents.
Workers living in farmer-provided housing have a right to privacy. The farmer/owner has a right to inspect and enter the housing for the purposes of routine maintenance and/or repairs, but must, except for an emergency, notify residents. Such work must be done with a minimum of disturbance to any personal belongings.
If employees are hired with no transportation of their own and housed in farmer-provided housing, farmer will work collaboratively with employees to ensure their adequate access to shopping and other necessities.
Workers who are terminated from employment before the time period specified by their employment contract and who choose to appeal such termination through the Conflict Resolution Procedure will retain the right to remain in farmer provided housing while the appeal is pending except in the case of acts of violence or sexual abuse or other cases in which the farmer can document a physical threat or risk to the safety of others.
Farmer provided housing may include proper facilities for recreation.
3.4.3. Fair rent
Where rent is charged to workers (in localities in which this practice is legal):
Rent must never be higher than rates charged in the local market for equivalent housing.
Wages must be sufficient to justify charging rent.
Rents must not compromise the stated goal of providing each worker a living wage.
Farmers who provide housing may develop appropriate and reasonable rules for provided housing, such as the following examples:
- Everyone must do their part to clean the house at regular intervals.
- At the end of the season, the house must be left clean.
- If something breaks, repair it or tell the farmer.
- Protect all food from rodents: keep in fridge, glass jars, or metal containers. Do not leave grains, flour, cereals, or crackers out on counters or in plastic bags. Report evidence of rodents to the farmer.
- Between 10 pm and 7 am noise must be kept to a minimum.
3.3.11. Additional benefits
a. Farmers are encouraged to offer additional benefits to employees in an effort to continually improve. Suggestions include (but are not limited to):
An enterprise that produces, processes, or sells food is encouraged to offer employees a discount on food purchases or free food.
Farmers providing meals to employees may do so at no or low cost (such as covering costs of providing such food).
The farmer is encouraged to do whatever possible to provide small loans at good conditions in case of need.
Employees may receive advanced training in the farm’s practices to allow them to understand the farm’s methods of production, marketing and economics, and to improve their skills and value to the business and to advance them in their field of work.
Farmer may work toward providing all permanent workers (including regularly returning seasonal workers) full health insurance,
Farmer may work toward providing all permanent workers (including regularly returning seasonal workers) the benefits of a pension or retirement fund,
Farmer may offer profit sharing.
Farmer may offer daycare at workplace or allowance for parents to leave on time to pickup children from school.
Farmers may institute a policy of paying time and a half for any work over 48 hours.
Farmer may improve on health and safety policies, leave and retirement benefits, and job security above what is required by these standards.