New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) Commissioner Roberta Reardon on Friday issued an order accepting the recommendation of the Farm Laborers Wage Board to lower the current 60-hour threshold for overtime pay to 40 hours per week by Jan. 1, 2032, allowing 10 years to phase in the new threshold.
A press release explained, “The board included its recommendation in a report that the board voted to advance to the commissioner during its final meeting on Sept. 6, 2022, following a two-year process and 14 public meetings and hearings. Following a rulemaking process to enact the commissioner's order, farm work in excess of 40 hours per week would be required to be compensated at overtime rates, as it is in other occupations.”
Reardon said, “I thank the Farm Laborers Wage Board and all New Yorkers who provided insight and input during this inclusive process. 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.”
Beginning in 2020, the board held public hearings to gather testimony from farm owners, workers, advocacy groups and academic researchers. Recordings of these hearings and additional materials are available on the NYSDOL’s Farm Laborers Wage Board webpage. The report released on Sept. 6 documents and summarizes the board’s process and its findings. The board was convened pursuant to the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act passed by the New York State Legislature and signed by the governor in 2019.
The press release said, “The board’s report recommended that the reduction in overtime hours take place by reducing the overtime work limit by four hours every other year beginning in 2024 until reaching 40 hours in 2032, giving agriculture businesses proper time to adjust.
“During the course of the board's deliberations in 2022, the governor and Legislature enacted three new tax credits to assist farm employers in transitioning to a lower overtime standard.
“The Investment Tax Credit was increased from 4% to 20% for farm businesses, providing an encouragement for potential automation of farm production.
“The Farm Workforce Retention Tax Credit was increased to $1,200 per employee to provide near-term relief to farmers.
“Most importantly, a new refundable overtime tax credit was established for overtime hours paid by farm employers at the level established by the board and confirmed by the commissioner up to 60 hours.
“The board noted that these actions by the governor and Legislature were supportive of food production, and provided a means for farms to transition to a lower overtime standard.”
NYSDOL will now be undergoing a rulemaking process, which will include a 60-day public comment period. Further details about the rulemaking process will be posted on the NYSDOL’s Farm Laborers Wage Board webpage.
More information on the Farm Laborers Wage Board process and next steps can be found on NYSDOL’s Farm Laborers Wage Board webpage.
In response, New York Farm Bureau President David Fisher said, “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.”