Would Your Farm's Electronic Onboarding System Pass This Test?

April 29, 2024

Many growers and farm labor contractors have turned to paperless onboarding systems in today's compliance-oriented agricultural industry to streamline their hiring processes and save time. While these digital solutions offer numerous benefits, they also have potential legal pitfalls that ag employers must navigate carefully. The recent California appellate case, Hasty v. American Automobile Association of Northern California, is a stark reminder of the importance of ensuring your electronic onboarding process, particularly regarding arbitration agreements, is legally compliant.

I asked our friend Bryan Little, head of FELs (the premier ag labor consultant in California), for his thoughts on this:

The Hasty decision illustrates how important it is to avoid procedures that a judge or other neutral fact-finder will find so untransparent to the employee-user as to be unconscionable.

We understand that meeting the minimum legal requirements for electronic onboarding is just the starting point. Our farm labor onboarding software goes above and beyond to ensure your onboarding process is efficient and fully compliant with applicable laws and regulations. I will walk you through the common issues highlighted in the Hasty case and how Harvust addresses them to provide a comprehensive farmworker onboarding solution for ag employers. 

The Basics of Legal Compliance

Before diving into the specifics of the Hasty case, it's essential to understand that our e-signature platform has undergone rigorous legal review to ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations. Our software adheres to the standards outlined in the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act and the Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, ensuring:

Additionally, Harvust's Form I-9 signing, processing, and storage capabilities are designed to meet the requirements set forth by USCIS and ICE. Our platform guides employers through the verification process, provides secure storage for I-9 forms, and assists with re-verification when necessary.

While meeting these standards is crucial, the Hasty case demonstrates that even compliant systems can fall short if not designed with the end user in mind. Let's examine the key issues raised in the case to see if they are present in your employee onboarding system.

Inconsistent Messaging: A Recipe for Confusion

In Hasty, the employer conveyed inconsistent information about when and how the employee would sign the arbitration agreement. This inconsistency led to confusion and contributed to the court's finding of procedural unconscionability.

Harvust Solution

Clear, transparent, and understandable communication is a pillar of Harvust software. Our platform ensures a uniform message throughout the hiring process, from the initial job offer to the signing of electronic documents. Harvust keeps your communication clear and consistent, addressing language barriers with translated Spanish and literacy barriers with text-to-audio formatted messages delivered straight to the employees' phones.

Lack of Accessibility: Limiting Employee Options

The employer in Hasty should have provided alternative methods for the employee to review and sign documents, such as physical copies or access to a computer. The employee was forced to view the arbitration agreement on a tiny phone screen, making it difficult to read and understand the terms.

Harvust Solution

Harvust offers flexibility, allowing employees to access and sign documents across any device that accesses the internet, including desktop computers and tablets with much larger screens than smartphones. We also provide the option for quickly printing physical copies of documents upon request, as clearly stated in our disclaimer (see image). This ensures that all employees, regardless of their access to technology, can quickly review and sign necessary documents.

Inadequate Document Review: Hindering Informed Consent

In Hasty, the employee struggled to review the arbitration agreement on a tiny phone screen and in rushed circumstances, which contributed to the court's finding of surprise and procedural unconscionability. The court emphasized allowing employees to review documents thoroughly before signing.

Harvust Solution

Harvust proactively encourages employees to take as much time as needed to review documents before signing, as evidenced by our clear disclaimer at the top of the e-signing page (see image). Our mobile-friendly platform is designed with clear and concise documents easily read on any device. Employees can review all documents they are signing at once, with completed information displayed and zoom-in functionality, ensuring there is no mistake about what they are signing.

Lack of Transparency and Insufficient Tracking: Leaving Employers Vulnerable

The employer in Hasty did not clearly inform the employee about the presence of an arbitration agreement or its implications. Furthermore, the digital transaction platform used did not provide adequate information about when the document was opened, reviewed, or signed, leaving the employer without a proper audit trail.

Harvust Solution

Harvust promotes transparency by clearly displaying each document in the employee's preferred language, not burying them in a mega-document. Unlike simple PDF generators, Harvust creates an electronic audit trail for each document, containing user authentication methods, timestamps, and more. This comprehensive record allows employers to prove their commitment to a compliant process when necessary.

Final Thoughts

Keeping your farm's onboarding process from falling short of evolving legal standards should be a priority. It is always a priority for us, so you don't have to be worrying about it. Partner with us to ensure your electronic onboarding system passes the test and provides your new hires a seamless, compliant experience. Our platform is designed specifically for the unique needs of farms and farmworkers.

(yes, you're going to end up on our email list, but we don't send that many)

(yes, you're going to end up on our email list, but we don't send that many)


James Christopher Hall

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