Legislation is being introduced in the 2016 NM Legislature to exempt farm and ranch workers from Workers’ Compensation Act..
An issue of significant consequences to New Mexico farmers and ranchers is Workers’ Compensation. The New Mexico Court of Appeals has ruled that the farm and ranch exclusion of the Workers’ Compensation Act, Section 52-1-6(A), is unconstitutional.
As a result, employers of farm and ranch laborers that employ three or more workers are required to have Workers’ Compensation insurance coverage. Owners of a farm or ranch are counted as employees for purposes of determining the mandatory insurance coverage requirement.
The Court of Appeals made its decision retroactive to March 30, 2012 (the date that a 2nd Judicial District Court originally ruled that the exclusion was unconstitutional.) Any workers compensation claims pending as of that date are not excluded from the provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act.
A farm or ranch may be in violation of the mandatory insurance provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act. If your farm or ranch fails to obtain a policy, the Workers’ Compensation Administration(WCA) may seek a temporary restraining order from a district court to prevent you from operating your farm or ranch until a Workers’ Compensation policy has been obtained.
Your farm or ranch could also face penalties of up to $1,000 per day that the business is in violation of the mandatory insurance coverage requirements.
Although owners (executive employees) of a farm or ranch count toward the three or more employees, they can elect to not be covered under the Act. Although an executive employee may elect to be excluded from coverage, the executive is still counted in determining whether the business employs three or more workers if the executive employee is performing work for the business.
WCA is also claiming that family members who work on the farm or ranch, day workers, or neighbors who trade work with each other also count as employees and should be covered under Workers’ Compensation.