Feeding America is not a simple task. The farmers that plant and harvest the foods we eat often put in long hours and have to work even in the worst weather to protect their crops and livestock. Many farm workers follow the crops across the country, helping plant in one state in spring and then moving on to tend other crops elsewhere in the summer.
The autumn harvest season is often particularly busy for farm workers, although there are always tasks to do year-round. Regardless of whether you work for the same farm all year or travel to different farms in different seasons, you have rights as a worker. If you get hurt on the job, you should receive workers’ compensation protections.
Many agricultural workers wrongly believe they are not entitled to these critical benefits. However, these benefits extend to almost everyone employed in the United States. Even if you do not have all of the necessary paperwork for employment in the United States, the benefits that offer medical protection and lost wage coverage still apply to you.
Farm machinery is a major source of injury
Farming used to be an incredibly physical job that required manual labor around the clock. Thanks to modern machinery, while food production is still very labor-intensive, many of the most difficult tasks, such as plowing and planting, can now be handled by large machines.
While those machines do save a lot of human labor, they also present a massive risk for injury to the workers who operate them. Farm machinery can cause lacerations, lost limbs, or severely broken bones. It only takes one wrong move to wind up with a limb crushed in a machine with so many moving parts.
Even the machines that seem the simplest, tractors, are a major source of risk for agricultural workers. Tractors are prone to tipping, which can cause severe trauma for the person on the machine at the time. That makes them a leading cause of farmworker fatalities each year. Regardless of the nature of the machinery involved, injured workers should receive immediate medical care.
Knowing your rights is the first step toward standing up for them
Many people who work on farms are hesitant to invoke the legal protections in place for them. They may worry about losing their job or even about the potential for deportation if they report a workplace injury. Neither your employer nor the North Carolina government should retaliate against you for seeking workers’ compensation benefits.
Consulting with an attorney who understands workplace protections for agricultural workers is an important first step for any farmworker who gets hurt. Your attorney can help you understand your rights and help you navigate the complex systems in place to connect you with the benefits that you need after a farm injury.