Washington State will phase in mandatory overtime pay for agricultural workers. Gov. Jay Inslee has signed SB 5172 into law, triggering a multi-year process that will begin in 2022 with time-and-a-half for workers beginning after 55 hours in one week. By 2024, overtime pay will be required after 40 hours in a week, bringing the state’s orchard and field workers into alignment with other hourly workers who have long earned overtime pay.
Agricultural workers were exempted from the 1938 federal law that established the standard 40-hour workweek and required overtime pay for employees who exceeded it. California has gone the farthest toward folding ag workers into the overtime rules. The state's ag overtime law began its phase-in process in 2019. This year, ag workers earn overtime after 8.5 hours in one day or 45 hours in a week. They will receive overtime after 8 hours/day or 40 hours/week beginning Jan. 1, 2022.
A lawsuit regarding overtime pay for dairy workers reached Washington’s Supreme Court last year and some saw its ruling in favor of workers as part of the impetus for the legislative action this session, which even some ag employers supported.
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Oregon Democrats introduced a bill to require overtime pay for farmworkers there, but it received pushback from many ag employers. A handful of other states has enacted variations on ag overtime laws, but so far the federal government has not passed anything that would bring hourly agricultural workers into the 8 hour/day, 40/week metric for overtime pay.
In a statement, President Joe Biden applauded Washington legislators for extending overtime pay to farmworkers.
“It is long past time that we put all of America’s farmworkers on an equal footing with the rest of our national workforce when it comes to their basic rights,” he said.