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California Farm Workers Could Receive Bump in Overtime Pay

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Sacramento, CACalifornia farm workers may now receive additional overtime pay after the California legislature voted to establish new farm worker overtime laws. And although the move does not directly address donning and doffing laws, those farm workers who have filed donning and doffing lawsuits could find themselves being paid overtime for hours spent putting on and taking off protective gear, depending on how the courts rule on such matters.

Companies such as Kendall Jackson face farm worker lawsuits by workers alleging they should be paid for time spent putting on and taking off protective gear, and moving between supply houses and work sites. For some workers, the time spent putting on and taking off special equipment could equate to overtime pay.

Currently, however, agriculture workers are only eligible for overtime pay after 10 hours of work in a day or six days of work in a workweek. That's thanks to a rule that came into effect back in 1976, which overturned a previous exemption preventing farm workers from being paid any overtime.

Bill AB 1066 - proposed by California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) - would see the threshold for overtime pay dropped to 9.5 hours in 2019 and then by a half-hour every year until 2022, where it would reach 8 hours a workday. Meanwhile the weekly threshold would drop by five hours per year until it reaches 40 hours in a workweek in 2022.

"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," said Gonzalez, in a news release. "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."

Although California's agriculture industry had revenue of approximately $54 billion in 2014, California's farmworkers have a median personal income of around $14,000 annually.

The bill passed the Assembly on August 29, with a 44-32 vote. It will now be sent to the California Governor Jerry Brown for his approval.

The issue of pay for donning and doffing is not clear-cut. Some court cases have resulted in the courts finding plaintiffs should be paid for time spent putting on and taking off protective gear, whereas other court cases have returned the opposite result. One of the main questions involves whether the gear is vital to the person's principal job duties.


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