A law in New Mexico that denied workers’ compensation benefits to farm laborers but allowed benefits for workers who processed crops was deemed unconstitutional by the New Mexico Court of Appeals this past week. The ruling effectively eliminated the different treatment of certain farm and ranch employees in receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
Before the law was struck down farm laborers, whose primary work was to cultivate crops, were denied benefits while workers who processed those same crops for distribution were covered. Often these employees worked side by side on the same farm or ranch, and the determination of coverage under the Workers Compensation Act came down to their job title. The ruling stated that “This distinction [was] seemingly without purpose or reason and lead to absurd results.” The ruling goes on to explain, “We fail to see any real differences between workers who fall under the statutory definition of a farm and ranch laborer and workers who do not.”
Under North Carolina workers’ compensation law, most businesses with three or more employees must provide workers’ comp coverage. Agricultural operations are excluded, however, “unless 10 or more full-time nonseasonal agricultural workers are regularly employed by the employer.” NCGS 97-2.