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Politics & Government

Changes In Overtime Rules Coming For California Farmworkers

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Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio
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Most workers get overtime when they work more than eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a week, but farmworkers do not. That will change for some California farmworkers starting in 2019.

In 2016 California became the first state in the U.S. to require employers to pay overtime for farmworkers who work more than eight hours. The first phase of the new rules will begin in January, when agricultural employees will earn overtime after working 9 1/2 hours in a day or 55 hours in a week. Currently California farmworkers can get overtime after working 60 hours in a  week or 10 hours in a day.

The change only applies to businesses that employ at least 26 people. The rules do not apply to smaller agricultural employers until 2022.

It’s difficult to predict how this will play out since there’s little reliable data on farmworker hours of work, according to Philip Martin, UC Davis Emeritus Professor of Agricultural Economics. But he says the phasing in of new overtime rules could impact bigger farm employers who employ dairy workers, irrigators and equipment operators.

“They may opt to pay overtime for workers they’ve already trained to use expensive equipment, rather than trying to hire additional workers and implementing shorter shifts to avoid overtime,” Martin says.

Beginning in 2022, agricultural employees will be paid double time when they work more than 12 hours a day.

The law comes at a time when labor shortages remain a top concern for many California growers. Many employers will also absorb a minimum wage increase from $11 to $12 an hour in 2019.

Copyright 2018 Capital Public Radio