On September 12, 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1066 into law, which was enacted on January 1, 2019. Among other laws enacted regarding working conditions, wages and gender requirements for other job areas, the Agricultural Chapter 30 of the bill focused on agricultural laborers.
California Farm Workers Gain More Overtime
In the previous law, farm laborers in California were only able to earn overtime after working 10 hours in a day or after 60 hours for the week. They did not receive the previous Fair Labor Standard Act entitlement to federal overtime provisions. After 80 years of exclusion from overtime protections, they will now enjoy the same overtime eligibility as other occupations in the state, earning time and a half after 8 hour days or 40 hours per week. The Bill itself reasons that due to the “back-breaking” nature of farm labor which is -physically demanding and exhausting- as reason to compensate long days more generously.
Objections to the New Agricultural Law
The Chamber of Commerce and local farm employers who opposed passing this bill expressed concerned that the change would drive up costs for farmers, higher prices for consumers and less hours scheduled for the laborers. In addition to this overtime provision law, last April the Governor also approved a higher minimum wage. The farmer’s complained that the combination of the two laws would make an even tougher impact of labor costs. It was suggested by proponents of the bill that farmers concerned about paying the additional overtime should work with their supervisors to schedule hours more efficiently to avoid overtime. They also suggested using alternate work week schedules.
An additional objection raised by the Chamber of Commerce was the concern that there would now commence a long queue of litigation over the compliance of these laws; that the door was opened for workers to file a litany of unfounded suits against employers.
The good news for farm employers is that the law will be enforceable in phases. Currently overtime pay won’t go into effect until after a 9.5 hour day or 55 hour workweek. Every year the next phase will lower the hours until in 2022 when the 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week rule officially kicks in. The parts of the law that will not be phased but are already active include meal breaks and aspects of working conditions. In the meantime, employers must create or update employee handbooks with the new laws outlined, update their payroll systems to reflect the law. A business with fewer than 25 employees has three years to enact the overtime laws.
If your business needs help setting up compliance to this law or you are a worker who feels that their employer is not practicing proper compliance, The Maison Law Firm can help either party understand and abide by Assembly Bill 1066.