What Are Your Rights: Farm Workers Overtime Threshold

Recorded on September 14, 2022

Earlier this month, the New York Farm Laborer Wage Board recommended to the state labor department to lower the overtime threshold for farm workers from 60 to 40 hours a week over the next 10 years. Many farmers have since come out in opposition to this. In this week’s “What are Your Rights” segment, Attorney Paul Harding of Martin, Harding & Mazzotti, LLP is on CBS6 to help examine the issue.

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Announcer: Martin, Harding & Mazzotti.

Interviewer: Well, earlier this month, the New York Farm Laborer Wage Board recommended to the state labor department to lower the overtime threshold for farmworkers from 60 to 40 hours a week over the next 10 years. I’m joined now by managing partner Paul Harding, from Martin, Harding & Mazzotti. And, Paul, many farmers are opposed to all this, why is that?

Paul: Well, you know, being a farmer is hard, right? We know that whether it’s a Tuesday in August or it’s the same as Christmas morning, right, the work has to be done. They’re concerned that there’s gonna be just too many hours, not enough people, workforce is kind of thin, as we all know. So I think it’s gonna scare people away. They might have to reduce their farms. Even though they’re offering a tax credit of 118% for every overtime dollar, they said, “Hey, it may not last, and we’re gonna be stuck.”

Interviewer: Yeah, that was what I was gonna ask you, the advocates for the change, what’s their argument?

Paul: You know, they’re saying, “Listen, we gotta move on, right?” This is 2022. This has been happening. These are workers who work in dangerous environments, they work hard, so why is someone working at a different facility at a factory or a restaurant or something, getting overtime, and they’re not… “Guys, let’s just make it fair.” That’s what they’re saying.

Interviewer: Gotcha. And, so what kind of impact might this have, if any, outside the farming industry? How does this affect, you know, you and me?

Paul: Well, it always has that trickle-down effect. So, what’s gonna happen is if they reduce the size of their farms, there’s gonna be less product, prices could increase. We’re always talking about, you know, these chain. We’re gonna get cut back on milk and some other things. If that happens, prices will go up. And then, I think, just generally, it’s gonna be more or less attractive for people to enter into that industry.

Interviewer: Right. And, now is not a time when you wanna see prices increasing anymore.

Paul: Prices increase or losing people working in your field, you know? It’s still difficult to get folks in a lot of industries.

Interviewer: Right. And, so what is the timeline for all of this now?

Paul: Yeah, the labor department has 45 days from September 6th. They decide, we either gonna…they could make some changes, they could keep it the way it is, or they could just balance it all together. So, if you can imagine right now in Albany, there is a heated amount of conversation going on, and we’ll find out what’s gonna happen within 45 days.

Interviewer: Is this one of those things that could just etch out longer and longer and longer, though?

Paul: You know, I think we’re gonna find something is happening this year. It’s been brewing for a lot of years. I believe it’s come to a head, the timing seems right. Something’s happening, whether it’s this exact bill, but it’s gonna be something very similar to it.

Interviewer: All right, Paul, thank you so much.

Paul: You’re welcome.

Interviewer: Thanks for being with us. Well, for more info covered in our weekly “What Are Your Rights?” segments or to send us a story idea, just head to our website, cbs6albany.com.

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