Ag Community Not Thrilled With Legislation Addressing Overtime Issues

Legislation that would address several overtime questions in Washington is not sitting well in the farming community for a variety of reasons. Senate Bill 5172 is currently in the state House. The legislation looks to initiate a stair stepped approach to overtime pay for farm workers that cross 40 hours in a week. If approved, the Evergreen state would start with time-and-a-half pay after 55 hours in 2022. And then the threshold drops to 48 hours in 2023, and then finally 40 hours a week in 2024.

Yakima area state Senator Jim Honeyford said when he voted for the legislation, he held his nose because while he’s not a fan of the overtime pay, the legislation would protect farmers from being sued for retroactive pay.

“Which is so important to the dairy industry we have in Yakima County, but I didn’t feel like it was good for the rest of Ag, but a neighbor of mine who had a dairy he said he already had papers filed on him and he said he figured it would be $100,000 just to defend himself, so with the retroactivity, that removes that.”

That retroactive concern started in November when the Washington Supreme Court opened the door for Ag workers to seek additional pay from the past three years.

Many in the farming community have asked for an amendment to SB 5172 that would allow for seasonal flexibility, allowing for additional hours during harvest. However, Honeyford said House leaders have told him such an amendment would kill the legislation, so he’s not expecting any kind of seasonal exemptions.

Click Here to learn more about SB 5172.

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