The future for California farmworkers includes overtime pay

The end of the 2015-2016 legislative session has seen new employment laws signed by California’s Governor Jerry Brown. One promises overtime pay to farmworkers beginning in 2019. Between 2019 and 2022, the measure will be phased into industrial and larger farming operations. Smaller farms will have until 2025 to implement the overtime rule.

It is not unusual for farmworkers to have 60-hour workweeks during the harvest and planting seasons. Not paying overtime to these workers was implemented during the era of the Depression in order to help struggling farmers. Opponents also argue that farmers will just cut back hours in order to avoid paying overtime. 

Another argument against paying this overtime is that since it is seasonal work, there is no need for overtime since a year’s worth of income can be made in a short amount of time. However, the fact that farmworkers only work during certain times of the year is precisely why this measure needed to be taken. Even though overtime will not be available until 2019, it is a positive move forward for workers who did not have a voice at one time.

In order to change laws, such as this one that provides overtime pay to farmworkers, enough people must come forward with their complaints. Wage and hour laws are like any other in that they are often not changed until the issue is perceived to be a problem. Without people who believed that they deserved overtime pay coming forward, this law might not have ever been passed. Therefore, if a worker believes that an employer is not treating him or her fairly, filing a complaint could ultimately help more people than this individual could ever have realized.

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