Farmers need to keep a close on Washington state’s overtime exemption
A new year means new items on the agenda for state lawmakers. In Washington state, one of those items will be the overtime exemption for agricultural workers.
Every farmer in the country needs to keep an eye on what happens in the “Evergreen State”.
The Washington State Supreme Court struck down the overtime exemption this year. Some justices suggested dairy farmers who used it should have to pay their employees three years of back pay.
Washington Farm Bureau’s Bre Elsey says that the high court only addressed how the wording failed to justify the ag exemption. Justices did not say that state lawmakers could not address the existing law.
“So, we’re hoping the legislature will step in, if anything, to address that three years retroactive compensation issue,” Elsey states. “Farmers will really be penalized for completely following the law. That will have been their only crime.”
Because the ruling was broad, it is expected to go beyond the dairy industry to all ag workers. It makes Washington the first state to grant farm workers overtime protection through the courts, and it could compel other states to take action.
Another big issue Washington farmers need to keep an eye on-- carbon legislation.
According to Elsey, “There’s a low carbon fuel standard bills, there’s a cap-and-trade bills, and you would think in a year where employers and the general population are struggling so much that they wouldn’t attempt to pass these massive tax bills, but unfortunately the legislature can just be inherently tone deaf... So, I urge members to look into carbon bills and to urge the legislature not to move forward with these. This is just not the time or the place.”