The Wage Board may determine overtime pay should occur after 40 hours
By Diego Flammini
Members of New York’s ag sector are concerned about how a potential change to the state’s overtime pay could affect the industry.
Under the Farm Laborers Fair Practices Act, which Governor Cuomo signed into law in 2019, farm employers must pay employees overtime pay of 1.5 times their hourly wage for any work over 60 hours of work or work done on a designated day off.
The law included a provision to create a wage board to discuss industry issues, including lowering the overtime requirement to 40 hours to bring agriculture in line with other sectors.
The wage board is expected to make its decision regarding overtime in ag by the end of the year.
Lowering the overtime threshold by 20 hours per week could have significant effects on the ag sector.
An October 2021 report from Farm Credit East estimates farm labor costs would rise about 17 percent. And when combined with future minimum wage increases, mandatory overtime pay could increase labor costs by about $264 million per year.
“Cutting into the financial viability of a farm may cause some farms to make the unfortunate decision to cease operations and we all know that that could have a ripple effect in the farms’ communities, not just in terms of economics but also environmental,” Joanna Lidback, CFO of Adirondack Farms, told the Press-Republican on Tuesday.
Lidback and other industry reps gathered at Rulfs Orchard in Peru, N.Y. Tuesday morning to voice the need to maintain the 60-hour overtime mark.
Paul Fisher has been coming to the farm from Jamaica for 27 years. His sons, Claude and Damion, work there too.
The family comes to New York to work, and they want to make the most of that time, he said.
“I don’t think anybody should determine when we take a rest day. I think we should take a rest day when we need a rest day. I am from Jamaica. When I got back home, I take a vacation so I don’t need one here. I come here to work. The 60 hours is already taking a toll on us for our family back home, we have to feed our family back home and feed ourselves here and take care of everything,” he told reporters Tuesday morning.
Farms.com has contacted the New York Farm Bureau for comment on the potential overtime threshold reduction.