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California Overtime Bill for Farmers and Workers Vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger

August 11, 2010

In recent California wage and hour news that our Newport Beach employment attorneys have been following, Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation recently that would have changed wage and hour pay regulations for agricultural workers.

The legislation, known as the Senate Bill 1121, reportedly would have required that agriculture employees in California who work over eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a week receive overtime benefits, which would have made California the only state in this country mandating these overtime regulations for farm workers.

Many farm groups reportedly welcomed the veto, including the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF), claiming that the legislature would have reduced wages for individual farm workers and would have complicated work for family farmers and ranchers. The CFBF joined around 30 business and agricultural groups, protesting the bill that was authored by California Senator Dean Florez (D-CA). Over 10,000 agricultural workers in California also vetoed the bill by signing a petition that was sent to the governor. California reportedly employs around 450,000 workers in peak harvest months like August and September.

According to Paul Wenger, President of the CFBF, farm work is not like other employment, due to seasons and fickle weather issues that can unexpectedly disrupt an employee's schedule. Many farm groups claimed that with the bill, if overtime compensation was required after working for eight hours, individual farm employees would lose hours and pay, as additional harvest crews would need to be hired for shorter shifts, resulting in lower take-home pay for all workers. Another argument against the bill was that work would need to be rescheduled due to the overtime.

Under current California law, overtime compensation is extended for farm workers after the employee reaches 10 hours of work in a workday, and for all hours that are worked on the seventh consecutive workday in the week. The CFBF claimed that the only other states that offer overtime pay for farm workers on a daily basis, and after a weekly hour limit are Hawaii, Minnesota, and Maryland.

Schwarzenegger claimed that the bill would not help agricultural employees in California and would cause the state's business additional burdens, as businesses who would try to compete against other states under the new wage rules could be unprofitable and go out of business, adding more damage to California's economy. He also claimed that federal law exempts farm workers from overtime pay.

In response to the veto, Florez, whose father and grandparents were farm workers, claimed that Governor Schwarzenegger was missing a chance to change the California employment practice that treats farm workers like "lower class."

In Orange County, California, our lawyers at Howard Law, PC represent employees in wage and hour lawsuits, who have been wrongfully deprived of wages and are seeking recovery. Let our team of experienced California Labor & Employment Attorneys protect your rights. Call today for a free consultation at 1-800-872-5925.

Farmers, Workers Welcome Veto of Overtime Bill, California Farm Bureau Federation, August 4, 2010

Schwarzenegger vetoes farm worker overtime bill, Business Week/The Associated Press, July 29, 2010

Related Web Resources:

Department of Labor (DOL): Wage and Hour Division (WHD)