Wage board votes on farm overtime rule
NEW YORK--A years-long debate regarding when overtime pay should kick in for farm workers may be getting close to a decision.
On Sept. 6, the Farm Laborers Wage Board met with the purpose of voting to advance their final report and recommendations on the overtime threshold for farm laborers. While the meeting occurred after press time for this edition, links to prior hearings and meetings are available at https://dol.ny.gov/farm-laborers-wage-board.
The wage board was convened by New York State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon. If the board does advance its proposal, Reardon has 45 days to review the information and announce a decision.
This action was taken in response to the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act of 2019, which set the threshold for overtime pay at 60 hours and required laborers be paid for work performed during scheduled time-off. The act also required that New York state convene a wage board in 2020. Since then, a dozen public hearings and meetings have been held - some face-to-face and others virtually - to consider the possibility of lowering this threshold and options for doing so.
A representative from the Department of Labor's Press Office explained, "If approved by Commissioner Reardon, the reduction of the overtime threshold from 60 to 40 hours would be phased in over a ten-year period, with reductions of four hours on a biannual basis. The phase-in schedule would begin on January 1, 2024, with the threshold set at 56 hours; on January 1, 2026, with the threshold set at 52 hours; on January 1, 2028, with the threshold set at 48 hours; on January 1, 2030, with the threshold set at 44 hours; on January 1, 2032, with the threshold set at 40 hours."
According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, released by the United States Department of Agriculture, New York State had 33,438 farms, 867 are in Yates County and 408 in Schuyler County. The 2022 Census of Agriculture will be upcoming with correspondence mailing out in November. The new data will be published in spring or summer of 2024.
According to the Department of Labor, "Gov. Hochul's 2022-23 state budget increases the Investment Tax Credit to 20 percent for capital farming expenditures, up from 4 percent for a personal income tax filer and 5 percent for a corporate filer."
A study conducted by Farm Credit East in October 2021 "outlines the economic impact that changes to the overtime threshold could have on the agricultural sector in New York," including an estimation that lowering the threshold for farm laborers by 20 hours per week (from 60 to 40) "would result in increased labor costs for farms of about 17 percent" and when considered with additional minimum wage increases, "would result in increased agricultural labor costs of approximately $264 million per year," approximately 42 percent.
The complete report can be seen at: https://www.farmcrediteast.com/en/resources/Industry-Trends-and-Outlooks/Reports/economic-impact-of-overtime-pay-for-nys-agriculture
Once the recommendations are advanced to the commissioner, the public will have the opportunity to comment.
The three-member wage board, voted 2-1 on the recommendation to lower the overtime threshold earlier this year. Board member David Fisher, President of the New York Farm Bureau, voted against the move.
State Senator Tom O'Mara (R,C,I-Big Flats) has been a vocal opponent of the measure. He recently said, "It's clear that this was a preordained decision by this wage board. The hundreds of hours of public testimony from farmers, farm workers, farm advocates, agricultural representatives, community leaders, and legislators, including me, were still echoing across this state in near-unanimous opposition to lowering the overtime threshold, yet the board took no time at all before coming out with a recommendation to lower it. It was a charade all along. I and many others warned that this is where the wage board was headed from day one. It's up to the governor now to reject the recommendation."
Census of Agriculture: https://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/AgCensus/2017/Online_Resources/County_Profiles/New_York/index.php
Farm Credit East report: https://www.farmcrediteast.com/en/resources/Industry-Trends-and-Outlooks/Reports/economic-impact-of-overtime-pay-for-nys-agriculture