Agricultural Employees

Seyfarth Synopsis: Agricultural employers have a hard row to hoe with the latest crop of legislation affecting overtime requirements in California. New requirements under Labor Code section 860 took effect when the rooster crowed on January 1, 2019. This law will phase in overtime pay requirements for agricultural employees covered by Wage Order 14.

Under federal law (the FLSA), “agricultural work” is exempt from the overtime rules, but in California the Industrial Welfare Commission’s Wage Order 14-2001 has entitled agricultural employees to daily overtime for hours worked in excess of ten hours in a day. Although California was thus outstanding in this field, it still did not mandate overtime protections for agricultural employees to the extent that it did for employees generally. Finding that situation udderly unacceptable, the Legislature in 2016 directed the Department of Industrial Relations to update the Wage Order so that agricultural workers will eventually be entitled to earn overtime moo-lah to the same extent as other non-exempt employees.

The phase-in process for the new law, summarized in the chart below, should alleviate some of the acres and pains it will undoubtedly cause. Starting in 2019, employers with 26 or more employees must pay overtime at 1.5 times the regular rate of pay for agricultural employees who work more than 9.5 hours per day or more than 55 hours per week. By January 1, 2022, the overtime triggers for agricultural employees will be on par with other California non-exempt employees, that is, 1.5 times the regular rate for work of more than 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week, and 2 times the regular rate for work of more than 12 hours per day. Employers with fewer than 26 employees have a more gradual phase-in process, which begins on January 1, 2022.

26+ Employees <26 Employees
Date 1.5x Reg. Rate 2x Reg. Rate Date 1.5x Reg. Rate 2x Reg. Rate
1/1/19

>9.5 hrs/day

or

>55 hrs/week

n/a 1/1/22

>9.5 hrs/day

or

>55 hrs/week

n/a
1/1/20

>9 hrs/day

Or

>50 hrs/week

n/a 1/1/23

>9 hrs/day

or

>50 hrs/week

n/a
1/1/21

>8.5 hrs/day

or

>45 hrs/week

n/a 1/1/24

>8.5 hrs/day

or

>45 hrs/week

n/a
1/1/22

>8 hrs/day

or

>40 hrs/week

>12 hrs/day 1/1/25

>8 hrs/day

or

>40 hrs/week

>12 hrs/day

The new law does not change the definition of agricultural employees under Wage Order 14-2001, which applies to workers who bring home the bacon by engaging in the following activities:

  • Preparation, care and treatment of farm land, pipeline, or ditches;
  • The sowing and planting of any agricultural (generally, farm) or horticultural (generally, garden, orchard, or nursery) commodity;
  • The care of any agricultural or horticultural commodity;
  • The harvesting of any agricultural or horticultural commodity;
  • The assembly and storage of any agricultural or horticultural commodity;
  • The raising, feeding and management of livestock, fur bearing animals, poultry, fish, mollusks, and insects;
  • The harvesting of fish for commercial sale as defined by Section 45 of the Fish and Game Code;
  • The conservation, improvement or maintenance of such farm and its tools and equipment.

Workplace Solution: Employers of agricultural employees covered by Wage Order 14-2001 should review their pay practices to ensure that they comply with the new law, but need not plow through these issues on their own. Seyfarth Shaw is outstanding in the field when it comes to wage and hour laws, and we are here to help employers navigate this maize until the cows come home.