Farm groups advocate for farmworkers’ overtime threshold to stay 60 hours

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — By the end of this year, a Wage Board is expected to put together recommendations on overtime pay for farm workers across the state. But, ahead of the recommendations being made, several farm groups are advocating for the overtime threshold to remain at 60 hours. 

“The threshold to remain at 60 would be a lot more favorable than it being lowered to 50 or even 40 hours. That’s really, really tough to handle,” said Lawnel Farms Owner Kirsty Northrop.

Northrop is a fourth-generation farm owner. Her team crops about 3,400 acres and milks 1,800 cows. This year—since the Farm Laborers Fair Practices Act went into effect, requiring farrmworkers to get paid overtime after working 60 hours per week or if they work on their day off—Northrop’s farm is paying 50 hours of overtime pay a week. Advocates of the law say it benefits farm workers and gives them more protections. But, farm owners like Kirsty say if the overtime threshold is reduced further it will hurt family businesses.

“If the new labor law changes and the threshold goes to 50 hours a week we would pay about roughly 150 hours of overtime in a week if our schedule did not change. And if the threshold got lowered to 40 hours a week we would be paying 330 hours of overtime a week without scheduling changes,” said Northrop.

Northrop says the pandemic has been especially difficult on farms. As a member of the Northeast Dairy Producers Association, she’s gotten behind a letter signed onto by several other farm groups asking the Governor’s Office to keep the overtime threshold at 60 hours. Northrop says weather also presents challenges. “We’re not like California, we can’t harvest our crops 12 months out of the year, we don’t have that luxury,” Northrop said.

The Wage Board’s recommendations are due by December 31. After that, the Labor Commissioner has 45 days to take action on them. 

We asked the Department of Labor (DOL) if the Commissioner had any comment on the letter and if the Wage Board is on track to make recommendations by the end of the year.

In a statement, a DOL spokesperson said, “As required by state law, the Farm Laborers Wage Board has held a series of hearings and is continuing its work to evaluate the overtime threshold for farm laborers—it would be premature and inappropriate to comment before their final report is issued.”

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