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Where can I find guidance on best practices to maintain the health and safety of seasonal farm workers? What rules are in place and what resources are available?
The Department of Health has created guidelines for seasonal farm labor camps, a "Quick Facts" infographic, and prevention signs on face coverings, hand cleaning, social distancing, and helpful hotlines.
The Department's guidance for employers, owners, and operators includes:
- Promoting social distancing by requiring workers to remain at least six feet away from one another while working in the fields or any food farming production, processing, and cultivation;
- Staggering shifts including staggering start times, to minimize the density of the workers in the fields and other work locations at the same time;
- Using partition between work spaces (cloth, plastic, etc.) if safe social distancing is not possible;
- Protecting workers by following CDC recommendations for congregate living if workers are provided housing by employer;
- Regularly and thoroughly disinfecting housing;
- Encouraging social distancing in housing;
- Implementing social distancing while transporting workers to and from their residency and place of work;
- Disinfecting high-touch areas;
- Providing face coverings or masks for employees and requiring workers to wear them at all times, with exceptions for eating, drinking, or health reasons;
- Providing clean, private toilet facilities and hand-washing stations with soap and disposable drying materials near working areas;
- Scheduling handwashing breaks every hour;
- Educate workers on hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and emergency response;
- Screening workers for symptoms, including temperature and symptom checks prior to work shifts;
- Connecting workers showing any COVID-19 symptoms to a physician who will determine if a test is needed;
- Pending medical attention and testing, confining workers with COVID-19 symptoms to individual rooms and having them avoid common areas;
- Contacting Federally Qualified Health Center directly to inquire about COVID-19 testing (including mobile testing) and primary care services, including telehealth;
- Ensuring that workers who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms are transported separately from other workers;
- Contacting the local public health department with any suspected case;
- Providing a separate living space or alternate housing, accessible kitchen, and bathroom for worker with suspected or confirmed COVID-19;
- Cohorting or grouping workers by their health status to reduce spread of COVID-19 to healthy workers;
- Allowing frequent communication between healthcare provider and a confirmed patient until individual fully recovers or has a negative COVID-19 test;
- Releasing a worker who had COVID-19 symptoms in isolation from isolation and return to work only under circumstances detailed on page 10 of the guidance; and
- Placing guidance in a visible place on a farm operation and in employer-provided housing.
Costs related to testing or treatment for COVID-19 will not be charged to employer or worker.
Any hospitalization or isolation provided by the State of New Jersey will not be charged to employers or workers.
Temporary isolation housing for workers who test positive is available at the Field Medical Station located at Atlantic City Convention Center, 1 Convention Blvd, Atlantic City, NJ 08401. Referral from a healthcare provider is required.
The full set of guidelines includes additional information and additional steps that employers must take to minimize the spread of COVID-19 during harvesting, picking, packing, and distribution of agricultural products as well as to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in shared housing and transportation.
Employment-Based Protections for Workers
Once a worker is hired and put on payroll, that worker is considered to be an employee. Workers arriving to a farm are considered hired and reporting to work. This applies to all employees regardless of immigration/documentation status. I.e., H-2A employees and undocumented employees are equally covered.
All workers in New Jersey are protected against COVID-19 Employment-Related Retaliation.
Most workers will be eligible for Paid Sick Time if they contract COVID-19. Employer is encouraged to give full 40 hours of paid sick leave upfront and ensure that workers have access to the paid sick time if they contract COVID-19.
Workers may be eligible for Workers Compensation if they get COVID-19 while working.
Page 11 of the guidance document has additional details on employment-based protections for workers.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org your questions about the Employment-Related Retaliation law or if you think you have been retaliated against.