Legislature will reconsider bill on overtime pay


Issue Date: August 3, 2016
By Christine Souza

California lawmakers returned from summer recess this week to finalize actions on a number of issues—including revived legislation to expand overtime requirements for agricultural employees.

The overtime bill restates the provisions of Assembly Bill 2757, which stalled in early June, when the Assembly failed to give it the required 41 votes to advance to the state Senate. But the bill's author, Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, revived the measure in mid-June by amending another of her bills that had reached the Senate, AB 1066, removing its original contents and substituting the language about agricultural overtime.

Because the bill has fiscal implications, it was referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee, which placed the bill in its suspense file on Monday. Bills with fiscal impacts are typically placed on suspense and considered shortly before the deadline for measures to move onto the floor of their respective chambers. The deadline for removing AB 1066 from suspense will come Aug. 12.

If the bill reaches the Senate floor and passes, it would return to the Assembly. The final deadline to pass bills in the legislative session comes on Aug. 31.

California Farm Bureau Federation Director of Employment Policy Bryan Little said agricultural organizations continue to oppose the measure, saying it would ultimately reduce work hours and compensation for farm employees.

"Farmers consider their employees to be among their most important assets, and want to pay them fairly," Little said. "At the same time, employees want to maximize their earnings during peak seasons. AB 1066 would end up forcing farmers to restructure their operations in order to minimize increased costs, leading to the unfortunate result of reduced hours for employees."

California is one of the few states that requires premium overtime pay for agricultural workers. Current rules require premium pay after 10 hours of work in a day and for all hours worked on a seventh consecutive day.

AB 1066 would expand overtime requirements, phased in during a four-year period beginning Jan. 1. It would:

  • Require premium pay for farm employees after eight hours of work in a day or 40 hours in a week;
  • Require agricultural employees to take one day off every seven days;
  • Delay the implementation of the new overtime rules for small employers by two years;
  • Give the governor authority to postpone a scheduled overtime pay increase if employment in California is declining.

"This bill would actually hurt the people it intends to help," Little said, "because it comes at a time when other stresses force farm employers to look for ways to cut costs. It's not just potential expansion of overtime rules—it's scheduled increases in the minimum wage, higher costs to comply with other state rules and regulations, and the pressure to remain competitive with farmers in other states and nations who don't face those same costs and requirements."

Given all that, he said, expansion of overtime rules would compel California farmers to try to reduce their labor costs—with employees ultimately being asked to work fewer hours.

"That's unfortunate," Little said, "and we can still avoid that by defeating AB 1066."

CFBF Political Affairs Manager Casey Gudel said the organization will notify members through FARM TEAM alerts before the bill faces key votes. Members of FARM TEAM receive emailed Action Alerts when help is needed in contacting legislators, taking into account the best times for advancing or, in this case, stopping a piece of legislation.

To participate in FARM TEAM, see www.cfbf.com/farmteam.

(Christine Souza is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. She may be contacted at csouza@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.