Judge issues restraining order on some aspects of new Farm Labor Bill
A temporary restraining order (TRO) was issued by Federal Court Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo on Dec. 31 in U.S. District Court in Western New York. The TRO prohibits New York State from enforcing certain actions and imposing penalties upon farmers stemming from a new law scheduled to go into effect today.
It is important to note, the TRO does not impact the law or impact the wages of the vast majority of hourly employees working on New York farms and the payment of overtime, nor was it intended to.
The court action followed a lawsuit filed on Monday, Dec. 30 that would temporarily halt the implementation of the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act on Jan. 1. The suit was filed by the Northeast Dairy Producers Association (NEDPA) and the New York State Vegetable Growers Association (NYSVGA) on behalf of the organizations' member farmers across the state, seeking clarity and to ensure they are in compliance with the law’s requirements.
The TRO specifically restrains the state government from enforcing the Act where such actions would impact the status, compensation, and hours of supervisors, family members, shareholders, and administrative and professional employees. The TRO will be in effect for several weeks. If a mutually agreeable settlement is not reached, a preliminary injunction hearing will be held on Jan. 24.
Brian Reeves, president of the New York State Vegetable Growers Association, and owner of Reeves Farms in Baldwinsville (Onondaga County), said, “The ruling in favor of the TRO is an important first step for ensuring the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practice Act is implemented fairly for all who work on farms in New York.
"We want to protect the rights of all who work on our farms and are so important to our success. We look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature to correct the statute to better address the rights of all who work on our farms.”
Jon Greenwood, chair of the Northeast Dairy Producers Association and co-owner of Greenwood Dairy Farm in Canton (St. Lawrence County), said, “The narrow scope of the TRO ruling will allow us to continue to work with the state to improve language and definitions in the Act.
"Providing clarity to New York’s farms will help us protect our management teams while assuring family members and others employed on our farms are treated fairly. We look forward to working with the state and court to ensure that the interests of farmers, their families, and employees are represented in the new state law.”