Colorado farm labor laws can be found in C.R.S. 8-3.5-101 through 8-3.5-114. Colorado established a nonimmigrant agricultural seasonal worker pilot program to expedite the seasonal worker application and approval process in compliance with the existing federal H-2A visa certification process so that eligible workers may come to Colorado legally, safely, and in a timely manner to meet the demands of Colorado producers[i].
Pursuant to C.R.S. 8-3.5-104, the program shall include sectors of the agriculture industry identified by the director in cooperation with the commissioner, shall be limited to 1000 employees in the first year, and shall increase by 1000 additional employees annually for four years thereafter. The director and the commissioner, in conjunction with the director of the governor’s office of economic development and international trade, may seek agreements between Colorado and foreign countries to assist in the recruiting and selection of eligible H-2A workers and in the maintenance of a pool of workers to depart for work in Colorado upon the approval of the employees’ federal H-2A visas and employer approval for participation in the program. The nonimmigrant agricultural seasonal worker pilot program advisory council established under the statute consists of the commissioner of the department of agriculture or his or her designee, the executive director of the department of labor and employment or his or her designee, the chairs of the house business affairs and labor committee and the senate business, labor, and technology committee, the chairs of the house and senate agriculture, livestock, and natural resources committees, or their successor committees, and three appointees of the governor, one who is a representative of the agriculture industry, one who has experience in immigration services, and one who is a representative of a migrant worker advocacy group. The advisory council shall make recommendations for the adoption of rules and shall assist in the preparation of the report to the general assembly. The advisory committee shall consult with health insurance carriers in Colorado to determine the availability of health insurance plans for employees participating in the program. The advisory committee shall include in the report to the general assembly any legislative recommendations deemed necessary to make health insurance available to seasonal agricultural workers[ii].
Pursuant to C.R.S. 8-3.5-105, the department of labor and employment shall work with employers participating in the program to expedite the H-2A visa application, approval, and recruitment process so that the seasonal agricultural needs of the employers are met in a timely manner. The employer shall:
- Reimburse the employee for the costs of transportation and subsistence from the site of recruitment to the place of employment when half of the contract period is complete;
- Provide free transportation to the employee between the employee’s local housing and the work site;
- Pay for the costs of return transportation and subsistence to the place of recruitment when the contract period is complete;
- Provide free housing for each employee that meets safety and health standards established by federal law, which shall be subject to inspection by the department;
- Provide United States workers and employees the same benefits, wages, and working conditions;
- Pay the employee wages that are in compliance with the federal requirements established pursuant to the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986;
- Provide workers’ compensation insurance;
- Provide all tools, supplies, and equipment required to perform the duties assigned, without charge, to the employee;
- In compliance with federal law, provide each employee with three low-cost meals per day and disclose the cost in the employment contract or provide free cooking and kitchen facilities;
- Guarantee employment for at least three-fourths of the work days during the work contract period;
- Guarantee that the employee will be paid at least twice per month; and
- Provide to the employee a copy of the work contract between the employer and the employee.
Pursuant to C.R.S. 8-3.5-106, an employer shall notify the department, if an employee absconds from his or her employment. Failure to notify may result in denial of future participation in the program and imposition of a fine not to exceed $200 per day per violation.
Pursuant to C.R.S. 8-3.5-108, a nonimmigrant agricultural seasonal worker pilot program cash fund is established. Moneys in the fund consist of any fees or fines collected pursuant to the program.
Pursuant to C.R.S. 8-3.5-109, within two weeks after an employee’s arrival in Colorado, the employee shall apply for an identification card issued by the department of revenue pursuant to part 3 of article 2 of title 42, C.R.S. The employer shall provide free transportation to the employee in order for the employee to meet this requirement.
Pursuant to C.R.S. 8-3.5-110, a person who violates or induces another to violate any provisions of the article, nonimmigrant agricultural seasonal worker pilot program, may be assessed a fine by the director of not more than $5,000. If any person fails to pay an assessment after it has become a final and unappealable order, or after the court has entered final judgment in favor of the department, the director shall refer the matter to the state attorney general, who shall recover the amount assessed by action in the appropriate court of competent jurisdiction. In such action, the validity and appropriateness of the final order imposing the penalty shall not be subject to review.
[i] C.R.S. 8-3.5-102.
[ii] C.R.S. 8-3.5-104.