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Below is an introduction to key employer record-keeping and notification requirements in Massachusetts. Note that these requirements vary from state to state. This page is designed to help farmers ensure that they are adhering to applicable laws, but it is not a legal document and is not exhaustive.
If workers are covered under the federal Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA), employment conditions must be disclosed in the language of the worker and must be posted at the site of employment. “Migrant” workers (i.e. workers who don’t permanently reside near the farm) must receive written disclosure at their time of recruitment, and “seasonal” workers (i.e. local residents) must receive verbal disclosure at their time of hire. Items needing to be disclosed include: rates of pay and other benefits; period and place of employment; crop information; worker’s comp information; transportation arrangements; and housing conditions. See templates in both English and Spanish for disclosing this information under the “forms” heading on this page; note that there are three separate templates – one for wages, one for housing, and one for other terms and conditions of employment.
You must complete an I-9 Form any time you hire an employee. You should have an employee fill out the first section of the form on or before their first day of employment; note that you can only ask an employee to complete an I-9 once you have offered them a position. The employee then has three days to provide you with documentation proving their identity and work authorization (necessary for completing the remainder of the I-9). You should keep all employees’ I-9 forms in a file separate from other personnel records, and retain them for at least three years after an employee’s hire, or at least one year after an employee stops working for you (whichever is later). It is important to follow a consistent procedure for filling out I-9’s with all of your employees to avoid claims of discrimination – a model I-9 procedure from Cornell is available here for guidance. More details on I-9 requirements for employers are in this U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services handbook and in this Farm Credit East webinar.
Employers must provide a pay slip to each employee with: employer’s name, address, and EIN or Social Security number; employee’s name; date; number of hours worked; rate of pay; and the amount and purpose of any deductions.
Employers in Massachusetts are required by federal and state law to post a wide variety of notices in their workplaces, in locations where employees are likely to see them. In the case of workers who are not fluent in English, in some cases employers are required to provide these notices in languages that are common to a significant portion of their workers (e.g. this is true in the case of posting requirements under the earned sick time law, MSPA, H-2A program, and Family and Medical Leave Act). You can find a compilation of posting requirements for Massachusetts employers here.
Employers should keep personnel records for a minimum of three years. Records for each employee should generally include: name, address, social security number, date of birth, job title and description, job application and resume (or other form of employment inquiry), gross and net wages for each pay period, hours worked each day, dates worked, rate of pay and any other compensation paid, deductions made from wages, method of payment, vacation pay, sick time accrual, any fees or amounts charged to the employee, and any documents pertaining to employee performance.
Employers must provide the employee with copies of their records within five business days of the employee’s request, and employers must notify workers when adding information to the record that could negatively affect a worker’s employment. If an employee disagrees with information in their file, the worker has the right to submit a written statement that would need to be included whenever the personnel record is shared.
Employers in Massachusetts are required to provide written notification to their existing employees in writing (in the employees’ primary language) about available paid family and medical leave benefits under the program. This notice must be issued to new employees within 30 days of their first day of employment, and the employer must ask employees to sign an acknowledgement of receiving this notice.
Employers in MA are required to provide written notice of pregnancy-related rights under the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to all employees upon hire, and within ten days of learning of an employee’s pregnancy. This notification should include information on their right to be free from discrimination due to pregnancy or a condition related to pregnancy (including, but not limited to, lactation or the need to express breast milk for a nursing child). It should also include a statement regarding the employee’s right to reasonable accommodations for conditions related to pregnancy and should outline the process for seeking such accommodations.
Employers in Massachusetts who have at least six employees are required to issue a written sexual harassment policy, distributing it to employees upon hire, and thereafter, annually. It is also recommended that employers conduct a training for all employees within one year of hire. You can find a model sexual harassment policy here. It is recommended that such policies also describe the employer’s adherence to anti-discrimination laws and clearly prohibit other forms of harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, gender identity, age, handicap (disability), participation in discrimination complaint-related activities, sexual orientation, genetics, or active military or veteran status.
Employers who pay into unemployment insurance are required to give all employees who are separated from work for seven or more days a copy of the pamphlet “How to Apply for Unemployment Insurance Benefits (0590A),” which provides accurate information on your farm to help expedite the filing of claims.
You must ensure workers and handlers have been provided with required annual pesticide safety training before they begin handling WPS-labeled pesticides OR working in any area where such pesticides have been used within the last 30 days. Since a very wide range of chemicals are WPS-labeled – including organic/natural chemicals – this frequently means that farmers must train their employees before they do any production or field work. The person doing the training must either have attended an approved train-the-trainer course (which are regularly available through UMass) or be a certified pesticide applicator. The training must use EPA-approved training materials, which are available on this page.
This webpage was last updated May 2021 and is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture under award 2018-70027-28588 and 2016-70017-25423 and by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service through grant 16FMPPMA0002. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.