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Agricultural Employment: Labor/Immigration, OSHA and Employee Benefits

Ice Miller advises agricultural operations and agribusiness owners on critical employment issues including compliance with state and federal non-discrimination law, employment-at-will, hiring and background checks, disciplinary actions and discharges, and workers' compensation.

While these are common employment considerations for most businesses, the agricultural industry faces a number of unique labor-related issues and Ice Miller attorneys are well positioned to assist with them. 

Immigration.  Seasonal and immigrant labor is critically important to all types of agribusinesses. Ice Miller works closely with agricultural clients on I-9 Employment Verification Compliance. We routinely provide training and auditing and assist clients in bringing their files into full compliance, as well as counsel during audits with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Labor.

Agribusinesses today also relocate professionals to offices all over the world. Ice Miller provides full-service immigration counsel related to the hiring and retention of key foreign national professionals, managers and executives. We also counsel clients regarding the various issues triggered by relocation of employees outside the United States, including worldwide work permit and visa requirements and applications, corporate and personal tax implications abroad and benefits and labor and employment matters associated with temporary and long-term employment abroad.

OSHA Compliance for Agricultural Operations. Compliance with OSHA's numerous and complex federal and state occupational safety and health standards and regulations is both critical to agribusiness but also overwhelming. Ice Miller's labor lawyers have extensive experience in both federal and state program OSHA law. We are well-positioned to assist clients with planning before an OSHA inspection as well the consequences of any accidents, violations or enforcement cases. Our attorneys can assist with:

  • Accidents and catastrophes
    • Combustible dust explosions
    • Grain engulfment accidents
    • Major construction accidents
  • Chemical fires, explosions, and other accidents
  • Employee/union complaints
  • Recordkeeping violations
  • Inspections under OSHA's numerous national and local emphasis programs
  • Citations issued under OSHA's multiemployer enforcement policy
  • Issues related to OSHA's severe violators enforcement policy
  • Efforts to achieve OSHA VPP status
  • Egregious and substantial enforcement cases
  • Citations characterized as "willful" or "repeated"
  • OSHA state plan inspections
  • M&A deal due diligence issues involving safety and health
  • Workplace harassment issues

Employee Benefits. Agricultural employers are facing general economic pressures as well as an aging work force – not to mention the uncertainty that still exists surrounding the Affordable Care Act and other state and federal regulations. Our attorneys advise food and agribusiness employers on how to handle health plans, compensation packages and other fringe benefits. We also work closely with our agricultural clients on steps to take as a result of health care reform. Simply determining whether the employer mandate applies to an agricultural employer is a complicated process that involves analyzing numerous technical definitions and multi-step tests. In addition, agricultural employers must be mindful of the special considerations provided for seasonal workers. We also advise clients on how to identify full-time employees and how to count new, variable hour, and seasonal employees. We help them understand how state exchanges operate and what employer information sharing and reporting responsibilities are required by the exchanges.

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