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3.0 Farm Employer Responsibilities

3.0 Farmer/Employer Responsibilities to Farm Employees and Interns

Social Stewardship Standards for Farms, Ranches, and other Food and Agriculture Businesses (2019v4)

Employees of food businesses other than farms are covered under section 4.0. See also section 7.0, additional requirements of nonprofit organizations.

Principle #

All workers have the right to safe working conditions, just treatment, and fair compensation.

Standards #

3.1. Labor Rights #

3.1.1. Freedom of association #

a. All workers have the rights to freedom of association, to organize, and to bargain collectively, free from retaliation of any kind by the employer/farmer or his/her agents.

  1. This right must be explicitly included in the employee contract and policies.

  2. Violations of these rights include: interference or prevention of strikes; employer/farmer proposed or initiated worker elections; worker elections conducted or facilitated by management; mandatory worker participation in elections; prevention of worker organizations from presenting to workers; prevention of trade union representatives from regular and reasonably free access to workers during workers’ free time.

  3. Employers/farmers do not institute unions or alternative associations and do not utilize protection contracts.

b. Workers with claims of employer/farmer retaliation for the exercise of these rights shall have access to an efficient and fair conflict resolution procedure to resolve the dispute in question.

c. Access must not be denied to representatives of labor organizations assisting workers in exercising these rights.

3.1.2 Negotiation process #

a. The employer/farmer will recognize and negotiate in good faith the terms of employment with (a) any employee, in the case of a single hired worker, (b) any group of employees, in the case of more than one hired worker, who choose to bargain collectively or (c) representatives democratically chosen by employees, which could include union representation, free from employer/farmer or supervisor interference or intimidation. All references to negotiating and negotiating rights contained in these standards shall be interpreted to apply to one of the three above categories, as appropriate in each particular case.

b. Contracts between employer/farmer and employee will contain requirements for all disputes to be handled in a speedy fashion with imposition of penalties for actions conducted without “good faith.”  

c. If either party is found to be negotiating in bad faith, the employer/farmer will allow access to the conflict resolution procedure outlined by AJP.

d. Employers/farmers and workers may develop a 5-year plan (with 1-year goals by which progress can be measured) for improving the fairness and equity of the operation.

3.1.3. Conflict resolution procedure #

a. The employer/farmer must have in place an internal conflict resolution procedure available to all workers. This procedure must include a multi-step process to use in cases when conflicts cannot be resolved in the first attempt. Workers who have complaints against their employer/farmer related to workplace practices including employer/farmer retaliation for workers’ submission of complaints, and who are not satisfied with the result of the internal conflict resolution procedure (which may include but is not limited to the ability to refer to workers’ rights to access representation from Workers’ organizations as well as assistance from dispute settlement centers), will be able to present their case through the AJP Conflict Resolution Procedure. Workers must be informed of this process and how to access it as part of their employee training.

b. An independently elected workers’ committee may be involved in conflict resolution and in investigating and resolving grievances.

3.1.4. Transparency and full disclosure #

a. All employees will receive a written contract and/or a written personnel policy manual containing the terms and conditions of employment. Employers/farmers will provide workers with a copy of the contract and/or manual defining working conditions and the disciplinary procedures that are followed in the workplace. Contracts must be written in the worker’s native language or in another language accessible to the worker.  

b. Contracts must include: rights and responsibilities, wages and method of payment, location and type of work (job description), hours of work and overtime requirements and rates, access to trade unions, complaints procedure, conflict resolution procedure as outlined above in 3.1.3, health and safety procedures, disciplinary procedure, holiday pay, sick pay or sickness benefit or leave, compensation for injury (e.g. worker’s compensation), worker’s right to terminate the employment, worker’s right to recover wages in cases of farm bankruptcy and the right to make public the nature of any dispute if they so choose with the exception of disclosure of confidential or proprietary information, and layoff and recall policies and criteria, and other benefits such as pensions, maternity/paternity leave.  

c. Any subsequent changes in this contract will be negotiated with employees or with their representatives, democratically chosen, free from employer/farmer or supervisor interference or intimidation.

d. Hiring and negotiations must be done in the most transparent and readily understandable manner.

e. Employers/farmers will maintain adequate records in employee files including wages and other remuneration, performance reviews, and any disciplinary actions taken. This applies to seasonal workers as well and in such cases, files will include duration of employment for all seasons worked. Workers will have free access, upon request, to their own employee files. Employers/farmers will provide workers with a copy of their own employment records upon request.

f. Workers will be provided documents, as well as a presentation, in their native language, or if not possible, in a language in which they are fully fluent, detailing their rights and responsibilities, as well as other provisions granted by these standards in a timely manner after initial employment.

g. Employers/farmers will present information to workers orally to ensure that workers understand their employment contract and any other work-related written documents.

h. Regular meetings between management and workers will be held during paid working hours.

3.1.5. Anti-discrimination clause #

a. Employer will not discriminate against any employee or prospective employee, in hiring, wages, benefits, or any other capacity, on the basis of race, creed, color, national or ethnic origin, nationality, gender, gender identity, age, handicap or disability (including HIV status), union or political activity, immigration status, citizenship status, marital status, pregnancy or sexual orientation.1

b. Employer/farmer must not discriminate in the assigning of work tasks or other working conditions.

3.1.6. Human relations #

a. All employees will be treated with dignity and respect.

b. No physical, psychological, verbal, or sexual harassment or abuse is tolerated. Employer/farmer is responsible for disciplining personnel, including supervisors, who engage in any sort of harassment or abuse.

c. No corporal punishment is allowed.

d. Deductions from wages or fines as a disciplinary measure are not practiced.

e. Employer/farmer does not retain worker’s original legal documents for a period longer than demanded by law.

f. Employer/farmer does not retain any part of a worker’s salary or benefits.

g. An employer/farmer cannot retaliate against an employee who reports injuries, whistleblower concerns, or activities protected by the Occupational Safety and Health Act.2  Whistleblower protections apply to many types of reports that employees might make such as failure to comply with legal or professional obligations or regulatory requirements; dangers to health and safety; child protection and safety concerns; wage violations; hygiene and food safety issues; animal welfare; sexual harassment, physical abuse; criminal activity, environmental violations and financial mismanagement. This would also include complaints or allegations against a certified entity that would become a noncompliance after the certifier does their due diligence in investigating the validity of the complaint(s). A ‘whistleblower’ is a person who raises a genuine concern in good faith relating to any of the above. Complaints may be filed with the Agricultural Justice Project and complaints relating to an employee’s own personal circumstances, such as the way one has been treated at work, should refer to the certified entities official grievance policy and or procedures for conflict resolution.

3.1.7. Regular performance reviews #

a. Employer/farmer will provide regular performance reviews for all workers, once a year at a minimum.

b. Employees will also have the opportunity in the evaluation to provide feedback to the employer/farmer and/or their supervisors, free from retaliation.

c. The person performing the review will write an evaluation that will be placed in the worker’s file, and workers will have access to their own files.

3.1.8. Recruitment agencies #

a. If the employer/farmer uses agencies to recruit employees, such agencies must be in compliance with all legal requirements. Use of a recruitment agency is permitted without restriction as long as the employer/farmer directly hires the employees, according to 3.1.9. Any labor brokerage fees must not be passed on to the employee to pay back.

3.1.9. Direct hiring and Permanent Positions #

a. The employees will be hired directly by the farm owner.

b. Intermediaries such as labor contractors shall not be used by AJP compliant farms, without receiving an approved certifier variance based on the tiered steps in 3.1.10 below. Before seeking variance for direct hire, employer/farmer must first post or advertise labor needs to the local community in an attempt to hire qualified individuals directly.

c. If a farm experiences seasonal or regular short-term labor needs, the employer/farmer must organize a committee of employees to advise on labor decisions. This committee may be elected by farm employees or may consist of volunteers as is appropriate for the farm. The employer/farmer should meet with the labor committee to discuss potential labor needs, and collectively find solutions. If additional short-term labor is necessary, the committee may advise on how to recruit additional employees and how to incorporate their labor into the existing staff activities.

d. Farms must not use part-time contracts to avoid hiring full-time positions or to reduce the hourly work-week of other full-time employees. If a farm hires more part-time employees than the industry average, they must ensure that the part-time contracts are justified and that there is a plan to enable employees who wish to obtain full-time positions to increase their work-week until they reach full-time.

3.1.10. Labor contractors #

a. If a farm faces a sudden short-term labor need, the employer/farmer must first consult with the labor committee described in 3.1.9c. If no current workers are available to form a committee, the employer/farmer must first consult with AJP worker organizations or local worker organizations regarding the reputations and performance of currently operating labor contractors in their area.

b. When using a labor contractor, the employer/farmer is responsible along with the contractor for the terms of employment and working conditions while the contracted workers are working on the farm. The employer/farmer must agree to or adopt legal employer/farmer or joint employer/farmer status for all who work on the farm. This must be explicitly stated in written form such as a written disclosure or as part of the farm employee manual. All wages, terms of employment, benefits, etc. (except for length of employment) provided by the farm employer/farmer must be extended equally to contracted workers. The one exception to this standard is for the use of any subcontractors performing extraordinary and non-farm business functions such as plumbing or electrical work by businesses which are engaged in independently established trade.

c. In the case of a documented need for the use of a labor contractor in any of the following scenarios, the employer/farmer will follow all pertinent laws, including but not limited to using licensed contractors.

d. If there is a dispute or grievance at the work site, an employer/farmer cannot use a labor contractor or employment agency in any of the below scenarios to interfere with the grievance or conflict resolution process.

Scenario One: #

a. The farm employer/farmer seeking variance to direct hire shall first document their need and report such need to their certifier (including documentation that the employer/farmer advertised locally for workers and was unable to find qualified workers).

b. Secondly, such employers/farmers shall seek to work collaboratively with an organization representing agricultural workers (rather than a labor contractor) and farm owner must document this effort. If such collaboration is successful and the worker organization serves as an intermediary on an on-going basis, then the worker organization will be included in the certifier’s audit of the farm. If the worker organization’s role is only to identify workers that are then hired directly by the farm owner, then these employees are covered under employee rights for directly hired workers in this section.

c. Thirdly, if such collaboration is not possible, then employer/farmer will submit an initial request to the certifier (including documents of the above steps) to use an AJP certified labor contractor (see section 7 for labor contractor standards).

Scenario Two: #

a. Employers/farmers failing the above requirements (which includes the possibility of a certified contractor not being available) but remaining in need of contracted farm labor shall be granted a transition period based on a plan approved by certifier and recognized by AJP for the elimination of all non-AJP certified contractors or the development of an alternative service which is AJP compliant.

  1. The exact period of this transition must be satisfactorily completed within a maximum of two consecutive farming seasons or one 18 -month period, whichever is shorter. Such approved transition plans shall remain under certifier and AJP supervision.

  2. Such transition plans shall be limited in time and cannot represent a significant portion (more than 10 - 20%) of the total labor requirements of the farm.

  3. Such approved transition labor contractors must maintain a clean labor violation record and employer/farmer must discontinue use of labor contractor if notified by AJP of a labor violation on the part of the labor contractor. The employer/farmer will be required to acquire a signed affidavit from the contractor that all pertinent laws related to working conditions and terms of employment are complied with throughout their business (not just in their work contracted with the certified operation in question).

  4. During this transition period the employer/farmer is responsible for ensuring that all standards are complied with for all contracted workers during their time as employees on the farm and for any additional costs associated with either compliance or additional auditing required to verify the above.

  5. In the event that no AJP certified labor contractor is available to initiate transition, the farm may be granted an exemption to use a labor contractor if:

    1. The farm makes clear efforts to avoid the use of a labor contractor by continuously seeking alternatives (for example by seeking or investing in technology, or in local labor training and continuous recruitment etc., that would negate the need for a labor contractor.)

    2. The farm documents the need for a labor contractor

    3. The farm meets other requirements in 3.1.10 a

Scenario Three: #

a. Emergency exemption – Employers/farmers who suffer temporary unforeseen labor crisis due to severe weather, natural disasters, or other such unexpected calamities or unexpected loss of existing labor force shall have the right to seek emergency labor through any means. Under no circumstance shall this occur other than for documented and fully temporary emergencies. Post emergency, the employer/farmer must submit to the certifier, an explanation of the emergency situation, labor contractor and labor used and time frame, as well as a plan for how such emergency needs for labor could be more compliant with AJP standards in the future.

3.1.11. Forced labor #

a. Forced labor including bonded or involuntary prison labor, is prohibited in any form. This includes indirect forms of coercion including withholding of pay, debt or payment of deposits (other than reasonable security deposits on housing if provided), extortion, or physical or psychological threats or abuse.

3.1.12. Family working relationships #

a. Employment is not conditional on the employment of the domestic partner. Domestic partners have the right to work elsewhere.

b. Domestic partners shall not be direct supervisors of one another.

3.1.13. Compliance #

a. The employer/farmer will not engage or participate in voluntary programs or practices that prevent or prohibit full compliance with the standards set forth in this document. In the U.S.A., this currently includes guestworker visa programs such as h2A and h2B.  

  1. An exemption to this standard can be made if the following criteria are met: (1) the requests for such visas are initiated by the employees and/or their families; (2) visas are for current and/or past employees, their families and/or known members of their communities; (3) the employer/farmer is directly engaged in the recruiting and hiring process such that identification and hiring of employees is not being handled by a recruitment or other agency. This does not preclude the employer/farmer from utilizing professional assistance in submitting paperwork.

  2. If the employee’s right to remain in the country is linked to active employment status, the employer/farmer agrees not to terminate employment of any employee working under this class of visa without first allowing a full appeal, as outlined in the AJP conflict resolution process, if the employee so wishes. Employees working under this class of visa must be informed of this right upon being hired.   

  3. The employer/farmer is responsible for any recruitment or other administrative fees as well as travel costs to and from the place of employment at the beginning and end of the contract. All provisions of the visa program, including but not limited to housing, wage provisions, and payment of travel costs, will be independently verified by the certifier.

  4. The employer/farmer is responsible for increased auditing and inspection costs associated with the utilization of this type of program.  

  5. This exemption will be considered temporary, to be extended only so long as no reasonable alternatives exist to enable the employees in question to arrive and remain in the country.

b. The employer/farmer does not hire and fire workers on a continual basis to avoid providing regular employment. There is no indication that subcontracting, homeworking, apprenticeships or other methods are used to avoid providing regular employment and direct hiring.

c. Employer/farmer will not use independent contractors to avoid an employer/farmer-employee contract.

d. Negotiations with independent contractors will be in good faith. Contracts will outline terms of work including time frame, pay that is considered fair to both parties, payment method, deliverables, terms of terminating the contract, resources to be provided to contractor and resources contractor is required to supply themselves, any additional benefits, and an explicit anti-discrimination clause that complies with the AJP standards.

e. All relevant federal, state, and local laws covering working conditions, health and safety, and terms of employment must be complied with.3 It is the responsibility of the employer/farmer to know his/her legal obligations and to comply.

3.1.14. Termination #

a. No worker will be disciplined or terminated without just cause. The enterprise has a documented disciplinary procedure with a system of warnings before any dismissal, and employees must be given full details on why they are being dismissed.

b. Upon the worker’s request, the worker has the right to have a worker representative or union representative of their choosing present during any disciplinary interview.

c. Any worker who is found to have been disciplined or discharged unjustly through use of the Conflict Resolution Procedure will be:

i. Reinstated and compensated for loss of earnings during the period of the related discharge or disciplinary action or

ii. If reinstatement is not the desire of both employee and employer/farmer, the employer/farmer will offer a mutually agreeable severance package.

iii. In the case of a worker being found to have been fired unjustly, employer/farmer will not retaliate against them formally or informally.

d. Workers have the right to terminate employment without restriction.

e. Employers/farmers must have a policy on factors they will consider when making decisions about lay-offs if such a situation arises. This policy must include (but is not limited to) consideration of seniority. This policy must be part of the employment contract with employees (and therefore negotiated by individuals, or worker representatives democratically selected by employees in the case of collective bargaining.) The employer/farmer will give employees notice of a pending lay-off in writing as soon as he/she is aware of the financial necessity of such a decision, and at least 14 days. Employer/farmer must share financial details of need for lay-off with employees with written notice. The employer/farmer must provide final paychecks immediately upon termination by lay off.

f. The employer/farmer must also have a policy that is included in the employee contracts and/or personnel manual that outlines the criteria that will be used for recalling employees.

3.1.15. Training and capacity building for farm employees and interns #

a. In a timely manner after initial employment, the employer/farmer will conduct, or otherwise provide for, training of his/her employees regarding their legal rights as employees. This training must include a presentation to employees of additional rights granted them under AJP. All employees must receive a copy of the AJP workers’ rights pamphlet prior to or as part of this training.

b. Employer/farmer must post in an area accessible to and frequented by employees’ information regarding their rights under AJP.

c. If not conducted by the employer/farmer, such training may be conducted by local farm employee unions or other organizations, or in their absence, legal services or similar agencies.

d. Employer/farmer must provide contact information of local or regional worker advocate groups and AJP sponsored worker groups posted in plain sight along with other required postings for employees.

e. All trainings must include opportunities for worker questions to be addressed and concerns to be raised. The exact format can vary depending on context but should always be more than the simple submission of written materials to employees to read on their own time and should take into account employees who do not have sufficient reading skills to understand written materials.

f. All required trainings, including those conducted by an outside organization, must be considered paid time on the clock for attending employees.

g. Employer/farmer must work with employees to ensure that development opportunities exist for all and achieving development opportunities is part of employee’s work plan. Such opportunities may include but are not limited to:

  1. Paid time to attend or participate in trainings for job skills.

  2. Paid time to shadow or apprentice with advanced workers in higher positions.

  3. Employer/farmer offers or pays for language classes or other external development opportunities that increase workers’ job capacity.

3.1.16. Volunteers #

a. All volunteers present on the farm must be treated fairly with respect to the AJP standards.

b. Employers/farmers accepting volunteers of any type must post notice of this (their right to fair treatment) in a clearly visible and public working space on the farm.   

3.2 Child Labor #

a. Hiring minors (under 18) for full-time labor is prohibited.  In countries where young people can legally leave school at the age of 16, these standards would allow the full-time employment of 16 to 18-year old’s if it can be documented that the minors either completed high school or left school voluntarily.

b. Under no circumstances will minors be given tasks that expose them to hazards or potential hazards such as chemicals or machinery. Minors should not work at night, and all loads carried or lifted, or other physical demands placed on them should be age appropriate. Minors should be carefully supervised. Minors will be assigned tasks commensurate with their physical limitations.

c. Minors will not be kept from schooling or school work in order to work on the farm.  

d. The employer/farmer must facilitate the attendance of schooling programs by children of employees.

e. Employer/farmer may facilitate attendance of other educational programs by minors that may be available and allow opportunities for parents of school age children to work part time whenever feasible.

f. In the situation where employees are housed on the farm, while their parents are working on the farm, the employer/farmer will provide an arrangement for childcare.

g. The farm must maintain a written policy which is made clear to staff outlining the prohibitions and protections for minors working on the farm. 

3.3 Wages and Benefits #

3.3.1. Living wage #

a. Employees will receive a living wage, defined as the net wage earned during a country’s legal maximum work week, but not more than 40 or 48 hours (depending on FLSA work classification), that provides for the necessities and allows a livelihood with human dignity. Living wage rates will be determined based on the needs of one individual. A living wage must cover at least resources for adequate nutrition, clothing and sanitary needs, health care, transportation, housing and utilities, plus savings (10 percent of income). The amount of a living wage will vary by region. The MIT living wage calculator uses information gathered from a wide variety of sources to generate regionally calculated living wages. More specific information on their sources can be found here: and there may be regional or city specific surveys which can also be used to understand very local situations.4 A living wage can be inclusive of non-monetary fringe benefits. Living wage calculations must not include hours worked beyond 40 or 48 hours, depending on job classification, which is considered voluntary overtime.

b. Part-time workers must be paid at an hourly rate that would equal a living wage for one individual if multiplied by full-time hours.

c. Part-time employees must receive equivalent value benefits to full-time employees, prorated according to the number of hours worked or other adequate measurement (example: a prorated number of paid vacation days, contribution to health insurance, etc.)

d. Wages will allow for employees’ access to culture and recreation.

e. Employer/farmer may make living wage rates inclusive of education expenses for employees as a benefit.

f. Employer/farmer will phase out or eliminate piece rate. Employer/farmer must not use other requirements that are a practical equivalent with piece rate, such as a minimum required harvest in order to earn the hourly rate. When piece rate is still in use (during phase out) it must be an hourly equivalent that complies with the living wage standards for all employees.

g. Employer/farmer will make clear to employees in pay stubs or other equivalent records submitted to the employee: the wage rate, all legally required deductions and other mutually agreed upon deductions, for instance for employer/farmer-provided housing.

h. Employer/farmer will not maintain double records, one set for employer/farmer use, the other for sharing with employees, and there will be no off-clock work required.        

i. If fair trade brings a higher revenue to the business, employer/farmer may increase wages and benefits for workers first.

j. Employer/farmer may provide year or season-end bonuses to employees.  

k. For pay increases a clear policy will be developed and communicated to workers based on criteria that could include seniority, job performance based on transparent evaluations, and business profits.

l. Employer/farmer may develop mechanisms that encourage increased participation and responsibility of employees in the enterprise and provide wages and benefits commensurate with such increased responsibility.

m. Farms may provide year-round employment for their workers.

n. Employer/farmer may make living wage rate adjustments to be inclusive of the number of dependents.

3.3.2. Economic realities #

In the current economy, agricultural producers will not always be able to pay a living wage. When this occurs, the following standards apply.


a. Employer/farmer must document and justify their inability to pay a living wage to their employees.


b. Employer/farmer must disclose their financial records and cost of production data sufficient to verify their financial status and allow for fair and transparent negotiations. Such financial records must be made available to both the certifier and to employees and/or their chosen representatives.


c. Actual wages must be determined through a negotiation process between the employer/farmer and individual employee or democratically chosen, free from employer/farmer or supervisor interference or intimidation, representatives of employees.


d. In no case will wages fall below prevailing wages for equivalent work for that region. This, however, shall be viewed as a floor only justified by short-term economic hardship, and wages will be expected to increase.


e. In no case will the ratio of lowest paid employee to highest paid (including the farm owner/employer) be greater than one to eight, in accordance with principles of a democratic workplace.


f. The employer/farmer must implement a plan to reach the goal of a living wage and, with participation of workers and/or their representatives, develop a process by which progress towards that goal is measured.


g. Wages of employees shall increase with increased profitability (net income) of the farm.

3.3.3. Right to benefits #

a. Employer/farmer will provide employees workers compensation, disability, and unemployment coverage, social security, sick leave, and maternity or paternity leave.

b. Employer/farmer will never require an employee to work who is ill or requiring medical attention.  

c. Employer/farmer will not discipline a worker in any way for missing work due to illness or illness in the family (this does not preclude the employer/farmer from requiring the employee to notify the employer/farmer as soon as possible and/or to provide healthcare provider note or documentation of illness for long absences).  

d. Farmers/employers must offer a minimum of 1 hour paid sick time for every 30 hours worked unless more is required by state, regional, provincial, or federal law. 

e. In those jurisdictions in which certain benefits such as workers compensation do not require the inclusion of agricultural workers, and such programs are unavailable on a voluntary basis, employers/farmers must document a reliable alternative method that will adequately provide for financial needs of employees injured or disabled on the job. (Such coverage is mutually beneficial as it should also provide protection to the employer/farmer from excessive liability exposure in the case of a work-related accident or injury.)

3.3.4. Day of rest and overtime #

Employer/farmer will abide by regional employment laws. However, the following conditions must be met at a minimum even if regional laws do not cover workers or if laws are weaker than the following standard:

a. Employer/farmer must comply with all laws pertaining to overtime and total hours worked per week, as well as the standards outlined here.

b. The sum of regular and overtime hours shall not exceed 72 hours or the maximum allowed by law, whichever is less. Exceptions may be allowed in certain scenarios, such as during seeding and harvest (may not exceed three consecutive weeks), particularly for perishable crops as long as workers willingly engage in additional hours of labor and this is documented. If this total exceeds 60 hours per week, this does not occur for more than six months per year.

c. Employer/farmer will provide all employees at least one day of rest out of every seven.

d. Time lost due to machine stoppage and other events beyond the control of the employee other than adverse weather conditions will be fully remunerated even for short-term hourly paid labor.

e. Employer/farmer will not require a worker to work more than 48 hours per workweek. Work beyond this is considered voluntary overtime and must be agreed to by the worker.

f. Employer/farmer must develop an overtime policy (in negotiations with employees or their democratically chosen worker representatives if they so choose, free from employer/farmer influence or intimidation). This policy must:

  1. Make clear the employee’s opportunity to choose to work voluntary overtime.

  2. If an employee has accepted a work agreement in which the employer/farmer clearly states that overtime hours may be occasionally required, this overtime policy must make clear the boundaries on those overtime hours. Employees must not be required to work excessive overtime, or overtime on a consistent week after week basis.

  3. Make clear the terms for overtime pay and explain a clear path of continual improvement toward providing overtime pay (time and a half) when it is not required already by law.

  4. Make clear that voluntary overtime hours (and required overtime hours for employees that have agreed to them) will be well documented and this documentation will be shared with employees at their request.

g. Employer/farmer will plan for and make every effort to provide alternative work to employees during otherwise unproductive time due to poor weather conditions.

h. Employees must know if overtime is mandatory before signing an employee agreement or taking a job.

i. Special consideration must be given regarding overtime requirements for employees who have children they must be home to care for.

j. Employer/farmer must not retaliate or otherwise discriminate against employees for refusing voluntary overtime hours. 

k. In case of seasonal peak times, deadlines, or other urgent needs for overtime work, only those employees who have previously agreed to work overtime may be required to work overtime. This overtime work must be of a reasonable amount and must be carried out according to terms previously agreed upon in the work agreement or contract. Employees who have not agreed in their work agreement or contract to work overtime must not be required or otherwise pressured to work overtime. Instead, these employees may be offered a choice to do so. (Employer/farmer should seek to explain the need for overtime work to employees and agree upon a workplan that accomplishes the work and compensates employees fairly.)

3.3.5. Seniority #

a. Employer/farmer shall implement a seniority policy for those workers continuously employed and those who return for successive seasons.

3.3.6. Equal pay for equal or equivalent work #

a. All workers performing the same task will be paid the same wages. (NOTE: This clause shall not prohibit the employer/farmer from developing pay scales based upon seniority as outlined above or based upon productivity or other measurable indicators that are documented by the employer/farmer.)

3.3.7. Right to return to seasonal position #

a. In the case of seasonal employment, workers must have the right to return for employment in successive years or seasons, in accordance with seniority, unless the employer/farmer can provide justification for denying re-hiring.

3.3.8. Penalties and deductions #

a. Provisions such as initial deposits, excessive and unwarranted deductions, monetary fines, or withholdings of any pay until the end of the season are prohibited.5

3.3.9. Leave of absence #

a. Workers must be granted unpaid (at least) leaves of absence of appropriate length for maternity leave, paternity leave, or medical or family emergencies, in accordance with the Family and Medical Leave Act and any additional agreements reached between the employer/farmer and the employees. (FMLA)6

b. Employer/farmer may provide paid leaves of absence of appropriate length for maternity, paternity, medical or family emergencies and other types of leave.

c. Employer/farmer may develop similar policies for seasonal employees.

3.3.10. Regular and timely payments #

a. Employer/farmer will pay workers regularly and in a timely manner and on fixed days, and no less frequently than every two weeks except at an employee’s request.

b. Payments must be properly documented, and the employer’s/farmer’s records include: rates of pay, hours worked, period of payment, details of deductions (for taxes, health insurance, etc.), overtime worked, and net amount of wages due.

c. Payment is made in legal tender (not in the form of prepaid debit cards, promissory notes, vouchers or coupons).

3.3.11. Additional benefits #

a. Employers/farmers are encouraged to offer additional benefits to employees in an effort to continually improve. Suggestions include (but are not limited to):

  1. An enterprise that produces, processes, or sells food is encouraged to offer employees a discount on food purchases or free food.

  2. Employers/farmers providing meals to employees may do so at no or low cost (such as covering costs of providing such food).

  3. The employer/farmer is encouraged to do whatever possible to provide small loans at good conditions in case of need.

  4. 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.

  5. Employer/farmer may work toward providing all permanent workers (including regularly returning seasonal workers) full health insurance,

  6. Employer/farmer may work toward providing all permanent workers (including regularly returning seasonal workers) the benefits of a pension or retirement fund,

  7. Employer/farmer may offer profit sharing  

  8. Employer/farmer may institute a policy of paying time and a half for any work over 48 hours.

  9. Employer/farmer may improve on health and safety policies, leave and retirement benefits, and job security above what is required by these standards.

3.3.12. Payment of wages from settlements #

a. If the employer/farmer goes out of business or files for bankruptcy, the employee(s) is (are) first in line for payments on wages and other payments owed for completed work from the company assets unless the law determines that other payments take priority. The employer/farmer cannot waive this right. The contract must contain a provision that guarantees the right of employees to recover unpaid wages and other owed payments from an employer/farmer.

3.4. Employer/Farmer Provided Housing #

3.4.1. Tenants’ rights and housing conditions #

a. All employer/farmer-provided housing must be safe and sanitary.

b. Housing must conform to legal requirements, including health and safety:  The housing provided must be weatherproof, 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 employer/farmer), and be maintained at a comfortable temperature (60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, unless otherwise preferred by tenants.

c. Housing must have fire escapes or well-marked exits and fire extinguishers.

d. Workers living in employer/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 employer/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.

e. Workers living in employer/farmer-provided housing have a right to privacy. The employer/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.

f. If employees are hired with no transportation of their own and housed in employer/farmer-provided housing, employer/farmer will work collaboratively with employees to ensure their adequate access to shopping and other necessities.

g. 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 employer/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 employer/farmer can document a physical threat or risk to the safety of others.

h. Employer/farmer provided housing may include proper facilities for recreation.

3.4.2. Protection from contamination #

a. Employers/farmers must provide a buffer zone between worker housing and fields or other areas where hazardous materials or natural dangers are present, applied or stored. (Employers/farmers who document that absolutely no hazardous materials or natural dangers are present or used, including manure, dust, and those that are approved for use on certified organic farms, are exempt from the requirement to provide a buffer zone.)

b. This buffer zone must protect housing and water supplies from drift, direct application, and contamination from agricultural chemicals. The buffer zone between fields and water must be at least 9 feet.  

c. If pesticides are stored on farm they must be stored in a locked area, off the ground, at least 400 feet from drinking water and 200 feet from surface water.

d. If hazardous inputs are used, farm must have a system in place for workers and neighbors to report or track pesticides or other chemical exposures or contamination that is due to the farm’s activities.  

e. Farm must maintain a written drift management plan to minimize drift of applied hazardous materials or natural dangers.

3.4.3. Fair rent #

a. Where rent is charged to workers (in localities in which this practice is legal):

  1. Rent must never be higher than rates charged in the local market for equivalent housing.

  2. Wages must be sufficient to justify charging rent.

  3. Rents must not compromise the stated goal of providing each worker a living wage.


3.5. Health and Safety #

Principle #

Employers/farmers must protect the health and safety of all employees by minimizing exposure to pesticides, other harmful agricultural inputs, or other workplace hazards.

Standards #

3.5.1. Safe workplace #

a. The employer/farmer must provide a safe and sanitary working environment and develop a health and safety plan consistent with the specific nature of the workplace.7

b. Farm must have adequate safety equipment: such as first aid kit, facilities for eye washing.

c. All indoor workplaces must have adequate lighting, heating and ventilation.

d. Fire exits, escape routes, firefighting equipment and fire alarms will be provided. They are properly marked and kept clear of obstruction, allowing swift and safe exit during emergencies. All exits must be able to be unlocked from the interior.

e. Electrical equipment, wiring and outlets must be properly placed, grounded and inspected for overloading and leakage by a qualified individual on a regular basis.

f. Any transportation provided by the employer/farmer must be safe and in compliance with legal requirements.

g. Employer/farmer will not send employees to work in dangerous conditions, such as unusual and potentially hazardous weather events and will allow extra rest periods, as needed, during excessively hot, cold, or smoky conditions.

h. Employer/farmer will not pressure workers into lifting loads that are beyond what they can do safely.

i. Application of pesticides and other hazardous materials must follow all instructions.

j. Records of applications of hazardous inputs (pesticides, herbicides, synthetic materials, etc.) must be kept for at least 3 years.  

k. Any mixing of pesticides or hazardous materials must be conducted in designated, well ventilated areas. Closed systems must be used for mixing any materials labeled with “Danger.”

l. Employers/farmers are encouraged to enable and work with workers to consider cutting edge health and safety issues and to develop workplace health and safety plan and achieve aims related to these innovations.

m. An employer/farmer cannot retaliate against a worker who reports injuries, safety concerns, or other activities protected by the Occupational Safety and Health Act or other concerns about wages, working conditions or food safety. Section 11(c) of the OSH Act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees for exercising their rights to file a complaint with OSHA, speak with an inspector, seek access to employer records of injuries or exposure to hazards, reporting an injury or raising a safety and health complaint with the employer.

n. New buildings will be designed to minimize energy and water usage as well as waste and use low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints and materials, and as older buildings are renovated these features will be added.

3.5.2. Safety training #

a. Employers/farmers must provide timely trainings for workers regarding workers’ legal rights related to worker protection, pesticide safety, and requirements for sanitation and food safety and emergency preparedness. In the U.S., as required by law, employers/farmers must ensure that agricultural workers are trained in the EPA Worker Protection Standard. For the purposes of AJP, employers/farmers are encouraged to utilize a qualified farmworker organization to conduct the training. Health and safety trainings required by law in other jurisdictions must be implemented.

b. Employers/farmers must conduct safety training before new employees are exposed to any toxins or workplace hazards. This training must include proper lifting techniques and weight limits. This training must include a review of all materials used on the farm and any safety regulations or procedures recommended for each of these materials.

c. Employers/farmers must educate employees on adequate ergonomic considerations to promote long-term well-being.

d. Employers/farmers are encouraged to make arrangements for unions or workers’ organizations to conduct these trainings when possible.

e. All employees performing particularly hazardous tasks, such as but not limited to spraying, tractor or other equipment usage, must receive adequate and thorough additional training.

f. If pesticides or hazardous materials are applied, workers must be trained upon hire, and annually in safe and proper application practices.

g. All required trainings, including those conducted by outside organizations, must be considered paid time on the clock for employees.

3.5.3. Access to medical care #

a. Workers must have access to adequate medical care of their choice.

b. In the event of workplace injuries or illnesses, the employer/farmer is responsible for providing transportation for workers to medical care, or for facilitating the timely arrival of medical personnel to the farm or employer/farmer-provided housing to care for employees.

c. In case of work-related accidents, the employer/farmer must provide worker’s compensation or other comprehensive medical insurance coverage.

3.5.4. Rest and sanitary facilities #

a. Employers/farmers must encourage workers to take sufficient breaks to allow for periodic rest, consumption of water, use of sanitation facilities, and the prevention of heat-related ailments, exposure to extreme weather events (including but not limited to high winds, fires, cold temperatures, and storms). Taking legally required breaks will be enforced without exception.

b. Employers/farmers must provide field sanitation facilities within reasonable distance from the work site (in the USA the OSHA standard of a quarter mile or 15-minute walk maximum should be followed).

c. Employers/farmers must provide safe and clean water to workers for consumption, washing, (and household use in the case of employer/farmer-provided housing).

d. In cases in which employees work for short periods of time in distant fields and the employer/farmer is not legally required to provide sanitation facilities, such as exemptions for smaller operations, the employer/farmer may, in lieu of providing on-site facilities, provide the workers with independent means of transportation to travel to sanitation facilities. In this case employees must be given explicit instructions to make use of this as needed. All time including travel to and from the sanitation facilities will be on the clock.

e. If the employer/farmer requires employees to wear a uniform, the employer/farmer provides all workers with the required clothing free of charge.

f. The employer/farmer must provide all workers with necessary working clothes and protective equipment appropriate to their tasks free of charge.

g. The employer/farmer must provide a dedicated area for undressing and washing with individual lockable storage facilities available to all workers, when workers are exposed to toxic materials or required to change clothing for work.

h. The employer/farmer must provide for maintenance of and/or cleaning of necessary protective equipment.

i. Employers/farmers must ensure that workers use personal protective equipment.  

a. An accident or injury rate higher than the average for similar operations in the region is unacceptable and must be fully explained to the certifier.

b. In such a case the employer/farmer must develop a comprehensive plan to lower the accident rate in an efficient manner, taking into account factors including average hours worked by employees, equipment maintenance, and adequate training and supervision. This plan will be implemented in a timely manner.

c. Employer/farmer must document all workplace accidents and injuries and retain such records for at least five years after the date of the incident.

d. If a worker is injured or disabled, the company will cooperate with the employee in order to receive any available benefits from insurance or government programs and agree to a mutually agreeable mediation process before taking any legal action to prevent the worker from receiving those benefits.

e. When an accident occurs on the work site or in employer/farmer-provided housing, or during transportation if employer/farmer provides transportation to workers on a regular basis, then the employer/farmer must seek medical attention for the employee without delay and facilitate the process of accessing adequate medical care for the employee.

3.5.6. Reduction of accidents #

a. Employer/farmer must demonstrate a commitment to continual reduction of the injury and accidents rate in the workplace.

3.5.7. Health and safety committee #

a. For employers/farmers with 10 or more employees (including interns), employers/farmers must maintain a Workplace Health and Safety Committee which meets regularly to address relevant issues.

b. In the absence of union representation, participation must be open to all interested employees or determined through a democratic process by employees.

c. Members of the committee must have free access to all documents and information pertinent to issues of health and safety, as long as such access does not violate the privacy rights of any individual employee.

d. On those farms with fewer than 10 employees (including interns), employers/farmers do not need to maintain an official committee, but will meet regularly with all employee(s) to address workplace health and safety in the manner described above. The right to access documents and information as described above applies equally to such employee(s).

e. The employer/farmer should make every effort to involve workers and their representatives in the addressing of health and safety concerns.

3.5.8. Right to know about toxic materials #

a. Employers must provide information to workers about all materials used in their workplace including but not limited to agricultural chemicals, organic inputs, dust, and contamination from genetically modified organisms.

b. Employers must provide workers with unimpeded access to label information and other written information in their possession pertaining to the toxicity of materials used in the workplace (for instance MSDS).

c. Provisions such as oral presentations must be made for workers who are not fully literate or unable to read the information in the language provided.

d. Workers engaged in handling toxic materials (including organic inputs) or exposed to hazardous materials must be provided with adequate training and personal protective equipment of good quality and maintained in good condition according to the recommendations on the product label, if applicable, at the employer/farmer’s expense. Workers must always use such equipment and must never take it to their homes.

e. If any workers are handling materials for which established medical exams and medical protocols exist, those should be followed or provided to employees. Workers handling organophosphate materials or those labeled with “Danger” or “Warning” must be medically monitored.

3.5.9. Pathways to Certification #

These standards allow three pathways to certification: 

a. Certified organic, biodynamic, or certified by a Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) like Certified Naturally Grown that is recognized by IFOAM-OI. 

  1. In these cases, the farmer shall provide organic, biodynamic or PGS certification certificate, plus a copy of the section of their organic plan where materials in use are listed

b. Farm claims to use organic practices, but is not certified organic, biodynamic or PGS 

  1. In these cases, farmer must fill out the section of the organic certification application where materials in use are listed.

Principle: #

Path #3 addresses the constraints found across the country for livestock farmers where access is limited to certified organic processors and / or slaughterhouses, and certified organic feed to comply with National Organic Program certification requirements must be shipped from a great distance.

c. Crops are certified organic or biodynamic, however, livestock is not certified but producer is claiming to use organic or biodynamic livestock practices.

  1. It is the responsibility of the farmer to uphold humane practices for livestock in addition to maintaining organic or biodynamic and sustainable practices on the farm.

  2. The farmer must document to FJC certifier: 

    1. Lack of availability and / or cost of certified organic feed 

    2. Lack of availability of a local certified organic slaughterhouse within a reasonable and humane distance

    3. Feed must be verifiable as non-GMO 

    4. Farmer will not use nanotechnology 

    5. Farmer will not use cloned animals 

    6. Farmer will not use growth hormones

3.5.10. Retention of injured workers #

a. Employers/farmers must make every effort to maintain the employment of workers who are injured on the job by providing a job that is compatible with any physical limitations due to their injury. Such workers must receive wages comparable to those earned before the injury. The injured worker will receive a job compatible with the injury and receive pay for that position at a rate based on worker’s seniority from previous position

b. In the event that no such employment is possible, the injured worker will receive compensation as provided in Worker Compensation or Disability statutes of the applicable jurisdiction or other acceptable alternative if not a legal requirement.

3.5.11. Choice of health providers #

a. Workers shall have the opportunity to select and submit the names of healthcare providers to any list of qualified doctors for the purposes of worker compensation and disability programs.

3.5.12. Protection from hazards #

a. Pregnant employees may not, under any circumstances, perform hazardous tasks (including exposure to hazardous substances).

b. Pregnant employees must be assigned tasks commensurate with their physical limitations.

3.5.13. Health and safety violations #

a. Repeated health and safety violations, and/or any one gross violation resulting in real or serious harm to workers are not permitted.

3.6. Interns and Apprentices #

Principle #

Farm internships must provide the practical skill acquisition and learning necessary to become an farmer.

Standards #

3.6.1. Intern/apprentice rights #

a. Since interns/apprentices work primarily for the educational experience rather than for economic compensation, they are exempt from the portions of these standards related to economic compensation. Instead, the intern/apprentice and the employer/farmer shall agree on a fair stipend to cover the living expenses of the intern while compensating the employer/farmer for providing instruction.

b. Minimum compensation will be valued no less than minimum wage for interns. Compensation may include additional benefits such as housing or food, valued at a reasonable rate in addition to monetary benefits, as per federal, state or provincial laws.  

c. To ensure that employers/farmers do not classify workers as interns or apprentices in order to make inappropriate use of this exemption, employers/farmers must document the educational opportunities made available to the interns/apprentices.

d. Employers/farmers must comply with the other provisions of these Social Justice Standards with regard to their use of labor from interns/apprentices including provision of the right of interns/apprentices to organize and bargain collectively and to receive full training in their legal rights as employees and under these standards.

e. Required trainings to participate in intern duties must be considered part of the required hours worked by an intern and must be compensated.

f. Interns must be trained in the AJP standards regarding intern and apprentice rights.

3.6.2. Contracts #

a. Employers/farmers must formalize their relationship with interns/apprentices through contracts that include at least the following administrative provisions:

  1. The intern/apprentice’s working conditions.

  2. Methods of evaluation for providing regular feedback and for mutual evaluation at the end of the internship, as well as at least once during the season or mid-term.

  3. Disciplinary procedures.

  4. The stipend to be provided to the intern/apprentice by the employer/farmer.

  5. Housing to be provided, if any.

  6. The employer/farmer’s expectations for working hours and types of labor to be provided.

b. The contract must also cover the opportunities to be provided by the employer/farmer for the intern/apprentice to meet educational goals either at the farm or through visits to other farms, conferences, workshops, or other appropriate means, including at least:

  1. The subjects about what the intern/apprentice desires to learn.

  2. The educational approach of the farm (hands-on, classroom style).

3.7. Continual Improvement #

a. Employers/farmers are required to continually improve their hiring and employment practices as they relate to the principles of the AJP standards. Employers/farmers must select an area in section 3.0 to work on and make progress annually. Employers/farmers may select from one of the suggested/encouraged standards outlined by AJP in this section or develop a specific practice that aligns with the principles that is not outlined in the standards in this section.

b. The employer/farmer must document the area of specific selected improvement and progress towards this annually. If progress was not achieved the employer/farmer must submit:

  1. The efforts they engaged in during the year

  2. The reasons it did not work, and

  3. The revised plan for improvement for the next year

3.8. Community Relations #

a. FJC operations are required to invest in their community, in a manner of their choosing in an effort to achieve more sustainable and just community relations. Suggestions include (but are not limited to):

  1. Developing a policy of hiring and training local people

  2. Purchasing from local and regional suppliers of products and services

  3. Providing resources to promote fair labor practices and living wages throughout the community.

  4. Supporting local schools, health and social services, cultural events and language classes and translation services.

  1. This standard does not restrict an employer from complying with legally required procedures such as in the USA I-9 verification procedures. ↩︎

  2. Section 11(c) of the OSH Act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees for exercising their rights to file a complaint with OSHA, speak with an inspector, seek access to employer records of injuries or exposure to hazards, reporting an injury or raising safety and health complaints with the employer. ↩︎

  3. AJP guidance on employee immigration status is covered separately. ↩︎

  4. While AJP recommends certain calculators, we do not mandate the use of a particular one and in determining whether an employer is paying a living wage, inspectors should take into account whether there are different calculations for the living wage in a given area. ↩︎

  5. As defined in ILO Conventions #95 (Protection of Wages) and #105 (Abolition of Forced Labor). ↩︎

  6. This varies from Canadian provincial labor law. Ontario guidelines can be found here under the Employment Standards Act (ESA), 2000. ↩︎

  7. Protection from hazardous employment is outlined in ILO Convention 138. ↩︎