Overtime threshold lowered for NY farm workers

Farm worker
Farm worker(WWNY)
Published: Sep. 30, 2022 at 5:34 PM EDT
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ALBANY, New York (WWNY) - It’s a done deal. Farm laborers in New York state will be paid overtime after working 40 hours per week instead of the current 60-hour threshold.

State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon made the final decision on Friday.

Earlier this month, the Farm Laborers Wage Board voted to recommend the lower overtime threshold.

“I come from a farm community myself, so I know how important the agricultural sector is to the New York State economy. Based on the findings, I feel the Farm Laborers Wage Board’s recommendations are the best path forward to ensure equity for farm workers and success for agricultural businesses,” said Reardon in a prepared statement.

The threshold will be lowered over 10 years.

Many north country farmers oppose the change, saying they’d have a disadvantage when competing with other states.

The state believes it can offset the costs for the farmer by providing an overtime tax credit - reimbursing farmers for overtime costs up to 60 hours.

The cost is estimated at $130 million a year.

Farmers are leery about how much time it’ll take for the state to make that reimbursement, and worry they’ll be left holding the bag for a while before any reimbursements come in.

New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher issued the following statement:

“This is a difficult day for all those who care about New York being able to feed itself. Commissioner Reardon’s decision to lower the farm labor overtime threshold will make it even tougher to farm in this state and will be a financial blow to the workers we all support.

Moving forward, farms will be forced to make difficult decisions on what they grow, the available hours they can provide to their employees, and their ability to compete in the marketplace. All of this was highlighted in the testimony and data that the wage board report and the commissioner simply ignored.”

The New York Civil Liberties Union issued the following statement from executive director Donna Lieberman:

“Farmworkers have waited over 80 years for an end to the racist exclusion that has stolen countless hours of overtime pay. Today, the Department of Labor took a historic step to bring that wait to an end.

“New York will prevent future generations of workers from suffering by bringing overdue wage fairness to farmworkers, eradicating this racist Jim Crow policy once and for all. Now, New York’s agriculture industry will no longer be able to use an overtime loophole to build their business plans on the backs of Black and Brown workers.”

State Senator Joe Griffo (R. - 47th District) released this statement:

“The decision made by the state Department of Labor to accept the New York Farm Laborers Wage Board’s recommendation to lower the overtime threshold for farms will have a devastating effect on the state’s agriculture industry.

While I recognize and respect the important role that farmworkers play in the industry, reducing the overtime threshold is another bad policy supported by the governor and legislative majorities. It is clear that they didn’t listen to or care about the significant and legitimate concerns raised by many across the state, including the New York Farm Bureau, farmers and agriculture-related groups.

This disappointing decision will be detrimental to the viability and financial well-being of family farms at a time when many are already struggling. It is another example of why so many New Yorkers in recent polls continue to believe that the state is heading in the wrong direction.”