Commentary: FELS offers resources for California farm employers


Issue Date: November 23, 2016
By Bryan Little

The Farm Employers Labor Service was created by the California Farm Bureau in 1970, during a period of change for the state's farmers and ranchers.

At the time, agricultural employers in California faced new challenges from the rise of the United Farm Workers and other unions seeking to represent agricultural workers; increasing interest in agricultural employment by state and federal regulatory agencies; and increasing lawsuit activity. Because farmers and ranchers were then (and generally still are) small businesses with very little "infrastructure" to deal with these challenges, they needed help—and FELS was born.

Today, FELS offers a variety of services and products to help farmers and ranchers cope with the challenge of employing people in California.

The FELS Newsletter comes to your mailbox or email inbox with "news you can use" about legislative, regulatory and legal developments that will impact agricultural employers in the nation's most challenging regulatory and legal environment. During the last few years, the FELS Newsletter included important information on new requirements such as the paid-sick-leave mandate; issues surrounding piece-rate rest periods and non-productive time; minimum wage increases; and the recent passage of new agricultural overtime-pay rules.

Our Employment Notifications Laminated Posters and Employment Notifications Book contain every notice and informational disclosure an agricultural employer is required to make to employees, printed side by side in English and Spanish. The posters are ideal for fixed locations such as break rooms, bulletin boards or a wall near a time clock; the book allows employees who don't normally visit any fixed location during a day or week to have access at all times to required workplace notices.

Other FELS products include:

  • The HR Compliance Manual, which features a customized Illness & Injury Prevention Program, Heat Illness Prevention Program, Hazard Communication Program and other written programs required for workplace health and safety compliance. It also contains sample forms for workplace safety assessments, reviews and inspections, documentation of hazard mitigations and employee health and safety trainings, and places to store completed forms for easy retrieval when a Cal/OSHA inspector visits.
  • Our custom or standard-form Employee Handbooks, which allow farm employers to clearly communicate workplace policies and expectations to employees in English and Spanish, with acknowledgments of receipt that can be filed to demonstrate employees were informed of employment policies.
  • DVDs such as FELS Heat Stress Prevention and other training aids for both safety and non-safety workplace trainings.
  • Safety- and HR-related forms, stickers and supplies to help employers be sure they're covering all the bases, because the one incontrovertible truth of employee management in California's hyper-regulated, highly litigious environment is: "If you didn't write it down, it didn't happen."

FELS also offers services to help employers "stay on track" in managing employees.

  • Our Labor Management Consultant program features bilingual and bi-cultural field staff to provide on-the-spot help on topics such as agricultural employee management, loss control, safety management and other disciplines. This service includes on-site safety and other employee and supervisor training, consultation on employment best practices, and general help and advice from someone who has probably seen the problem before—and knows how to help fix it. Our consultants can help spot and manage HR, safety and labor relations problems before they start.
  • The FELS website, at www.fels.net, provides information and free resources, plus password-protected information and resources reserved for FELS Newsletter subscribers.
  • FELS eNews is a free, periodic email service that acts as a useful early-warning system, bringing important issues to employers' immediate attention, with references to more information at the FELS website.
  • FELS Facebook and LinkedIn pages are free resources providing information about the latest developments in safety, HR and labor relations, plus other helpful resources.
  • FELS Newsletter subscribers also have access to services such as the FELS Sacramento staff, with decades of knowledge and experience to navigate complicated safety, HR and labor relations issues, along with a Group Legal Services Program through the Fresno-based law firm Barsamian & Moody when legal help is needed.
  • Our Ag Employer's Compliance Check-up and optional Handbook Service offer a comprehensive picture of all employment-related compliance requirements. For employers who don't have a handbook already, FELS can help create a custom handbook in English and Spanish, to make workplace policies clear to employees.

FELS provides its customers, clients and Newsletter subscribers with a wealth of information to assist in compliance with state and federal workplace management requirements and help employers efficiently and effectively manage employees.

You can get started today at fels.net; find Farm Employers Labor Service on Facebook or LinkedIn; or call us at 800-753-9073.

(Bryan Little is chief operating officer of FELS and director of employment policy for the California Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted at blittle@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.