More Overtime Pay and Breaks for Farmworkers

California’s Labor and Employment committee passed SB1121 in a 4 to 1 vote yesterday.  This bill, introduced by Senator Dean Florez, would amend Labor Code Section 554 relating to overtime payments as it applies to farmworkers.  Existing law exempts persons employed in an “agricultural occupation” under IWC Order No 14-80 from overtime pay and meal period requirements.

Currently, under Wage Order 14-80, agricultural employees are entitled to overtime only when they work longer than 10 hours in a single day or more than six days during any workweek.  The wage order requires a meal period if the agricultural worker works more than five hours in a day, but is silent as to whether a second meal period is required after working ten hours in the day.

The proposed law would strike out the language in Labor Code Section 554 that says: “This chapter, with the exception of section 558, shall not apply to any person employed in an agricultural occupation, as defined in Order No. 14-80 (operative January 1, 1998) of the Industrial Welfare Commission.”

Proponents of the law, led by the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association, say the agricultural exemption is outdated and based on an obsolete federal provision in the Fair Labor Standards Act.  The proponents argue that California have long supported farmers through subsidies, and it is time for the State to support the people whose work in the fields makes California’s agricultural industry among the world’s most productive and profitable.

Opponents argue that the exemption is still necessary because the nature of the work does not allow a regular eight-hour workday.  Many farmers are at the whim of the water and the weather, and therefore must work when the time is right.  Opponents also point out that requiring overtime pay after eight hours instead of ten hours will raise the cost of doing business in an industry where the profit margins are already dismal.

I haven’t seen anybody point out the fact that since many farms are still subsidized, this bill will require the State to provide even more subsidies if our State’s farmers are to succeed.

The Senate already passed the bill in a 23-12 vote and he bill is now headed for the Assembly floor.  If the bill passes and is signed into law, farmers throughout our state will have to drastically modify how they do business.

The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
95 South Market Street, Suite 520
San Jose, CA 95113
Tel. 408-293-6341
 
Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman, former associate of The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.
 

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