New law makes farmworkers eligible for overtime pay

For the Basin Business Journal | August 12, 2021 1:00 AM

TUMWATER — Dairy workers in Washington state may earn overtime pay under a new state law that took effect on July 25, and other agricultural workers will be eligible to start earning overtime pay on Jan. 1, 2022.

The law, Senate Bill 5172, was passed in the spring in response to a 2020 Washington Supreme Court decision, Martinez-Cuevas v. DeRuyter Brothers Dairy. The court ruled there was no reasonable ground to exempt dairy workers from state overtime laws.

Prior to the ruling, farmworkers were not included in the provisions in the state’s Minimum Wage Act pertaining to overtime pay. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) will enforce the law.

“This well-defined overtime standard for our state’s agricultural workers eliminates ambiguity and extends basic workplace protections to these essential workers,” said L&I Director Joel Sacks said in a press release. “When it comes to overtime, the folks who supply the food for our families’ tables will have the same rights as other workers in Washington.”

Starting July 25, dairy workers began to be eligible for overtime pay after 40 hours.

For non-dairy farmworkers, the law phases in the hours at which overtime pay kicks in, according to a L&I press release. In 2022, overtime will begin after 55 hours worked in a week; in 2023, the threshold will be 48 hours; it will fall to 40 hours in 2024. Overtime pay must be at least 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate of pay, the press release said.

The new law also bars farm employees from seeking retroactive overtime pay.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at