According to current overtime laws, agricultural workers receive overtime pay if they work more than 10 hours in a day and more than 6 days per work week. This is a different standard than the overtime laws that most California employers must comply with of more than 8 hours a day and 40 hours a work week.
California lawmakers recently passed a bill that will close in the gap for eligible overtime hours for farm employees. Beginning in July 2019, overtime pay will begin a half hour sooner each year, starting with 9 1/2 hours per day and 55 per work week, until it reaches 8 hours per day and 40 hours a work week in 2022. Smaller farms of 25 or fewer workers have until 2025 to comply with the new regulations.
The bill was introduced by California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego). It passed in the state senate by 21-14 and was signed in to law by Governor Edmund Brown on September 12.
"The whole world eats the food provided by California farmworkers, yet we don't guarantee fair overtime pay for the backbreaking manual labor they put in to keep us fed," Assemblywoman Gonzalez said of her proposed bill. "We know this is the right thing to do, and thanks to the hard work of an incredible coalition throughout the state and across the country, we're now one step closer to finally providing our hard-working farmworkers the dignity they deserve."
Not all are pleased with the new bill, arguing that it will but California farmers at a competitive disadvantage.
George Radanovich, president of the California Fresh Fruit Association, stated to the Western Farm Press that the bill "will negatively impact the exact people it purports to help. The change in agriculture overtime, coupled with $15 minimum wage and changes in piece rate compensation, farmers will have to make the difficult decision to mechanize, reduce acreage, or go out of business altogether."
According recent data, however, the California agricultural industry amassed $50 million in 2014, yet the median personal income of farm workers is $14,000. California lawmakers see this as justification for changes in overtime pay laws.