Could This Normal Labor Practice Work On Iowa Farms?
When you work full-time and are an hourly employee, you usually would get extra compensation, or overtime pay, when you surpass a 40-hour workweek. For farmworkers- this typically isn’t the case.
So, what does overtime look like if you work on a farm?
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, overtime does not apply to employers that don’t use more than 500 man-days of agriculture labor during any calendar quarter of the preceding year. A man-day is a day in which a worker performs at least one hour of ag labor.
So, generally speaking, ag workers are exempt from overtime requirements whereas packers and processors, that work with farms, are not covered by this exception.
Over the last few years, states have begun looking at changing these rules so that overtime would be more accessible to workers.
In Oregon, creating agriculture overtime is a top priority of Democrats in the 2022 legislative session. House Bill 4002 would place an overtime mandate for ag workers working over the typical 40-hour workweek. In Oregon’s bill, there is a four-year phase-in period that would start at overtime being at 55 hours a week in 2023 than 40 hours in 2027. By 2029, tax credits to those employers that do this would end.
Last month New York took a step towards this reality when the state board voted to recommend a 40-hour overtime rule for farmworkers be phased in over the next ten years.
However, there is a concern with farmers that their operations may not be able to handle it.
Could this be feasible?
A Coalition of Oregon Agricultural Organizations released an economic study in response to the bill’s proposal. According to Oregon Farm Bureau, the outcome of this bill will likely not end in higher paychecks in the worker’s pockets.
What is likely to happen is employers will need to limit their employee’s hours to 40 hour weeks to avoid that extra cost. This would ultimately result in smaller paychecks due to the fewer hours employees are working.
There is also the potential that this could result in fewer jobs or farmers moving to less labor-intensive crops. Farmers might also use this as an opportunity to invest in machines that could do the work.