Updated: Jul 9, 2020
By Ashley Ellixson
Back in September I wrote about farm protection laws. In case you missed that post, farm protection laws, or “ag gag” laws as they are referred to by activists, generally criminalize the undercover investigation of agricultural operations, no matter the intent of the individual. Some states’ laws require that the individual have the intent to damage the business, while other farm protection laws do not. One of the underlying themes to many of the farm protection laws is deterring dishonest employees or employment that has ulterior motives. For example, an activist applies for a job at a poultry facility but actually privately films activities that go on in the day-to-day operations. This would be an instance that farm protection laws aim to prevent or hinder since it undermines the business. Even though Maryland does not have a farm protection law, there are other ways to be proactive in protecting the integrity of your operation.
Today, I will go over some items to consider when hiring a new employee on your operation. No matter your area of production, whether it be vegetables or animals, well-oiled hiring practices are something that you may want to consider to ensure efficient operation of your farm. The following is a list of employment practices to use in your own hiring protocol and fit to your personal needs:
Require a signature on your employment applications that ensures all information provided is true under penalty of perjury.
Ask about group affiliations. An animal activist group affiliation may raise a red flag to at least put you on alert to pay close attention for any future inconsistencies.
Ask for any prior names or aliases.
Ask if potential employee owns any video or recording equipment. Keep track of who does.
Include a signed statement that such recording devices can only be used with permission.
Make sure to check references if, of course, potential employee grants you permission. You must have permission.
Check the potential employee’s social media pages (facebook, twitter, instagram, etc.).
Adopt, and make known, policies prohibiting recording or photographs.
Additionally, make known that any such recordings or photographs are property of the operation.
Adopt, and make known, policies against cell phone use on operation premises.
Adopt, and make know, policies requiring immediate reporting of animal cruelty, abuse, contamination and the like.
Consider using a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) as an addition to your employment contract. An NDA protects your business information from being released to the public or another third party.
Use your long-time trusted employees as your own eyes during the day-to-day operations.
Have compliance training on your farm policies and procedures to ensure the information is well understood by your workforce.
Lastly, consider doing your own undercover investigating to ensure all employees are following policies and procedures as well as to ensure your operation is in full compliance with all regulations.
This list is simply a handful of items to consider when hiring employees and protecting your operation from dishonest people. This blog post should not be construed as legal advice but rather a piece of information to use in consideration of your hiring practices. If you have further questions about your individual concerns and operation, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can direct you to an attorney that will be able to address your needs.