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Farmworkers overtime threshold will drop to 40 hours in New York

  • / Updated:
  • Josh Durso 

New York has made a decision on lowering the 60-hour threshold for overtime among farmworkers to 40-hours.

Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon announced the move, accepting the recommendation of the Farm Laborers Wage Board.

The change to 40 hours will take place January 1, 2032 – allowing for it to be phased-in similar to the $15 minimum wage enacted several years ago.

The Board included its recommendation in a report that the Board voted to advance to the Commissioner during its final meeting on September 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.

“I thank the Farm Laborers Wage Board and all New Yorkers who provided insight and input during this inclusive process,” said Reardon in a press release. “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 September 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 Board’s report recommended that the reduction in overtime hours take place by reducing the overtime work limit by 4 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 percent to 20 percent 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 rule making 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.

Lawmakers from Upstate condemned the decision to lower the overtime threshold, noting that it could damage the economy.

“The Labor Commissioner’s order to lower the overtime threshold is absolutely the wrong decision. Albany didn’t listen once again,” Sen. Pam Helming said. “This is another policy that makes it harder to operate in the state. It threatens to drive family farms out of business and workers out of New York.”

Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay called it an ill-advised move. “Today’s decision by Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon to reduce the farm labor overtime threshold is ill-advised and reckless, and completely ignores the concerns raised by family farmers and laborers across the state,” he said. “I’m extremely disappointed by the commissioner’s decision, particularly because this vital industry is already under an enormous financial strain. We’ve echoed farmers’ concerns repeatedly over the last several years – this costly regulation will put generational family farms out of business and do irreparable damage to one of the state’s cornerstone industries.”

Congresswoman Claudia Tenney, who represents the 22nd District, weighed in on the move to lower the threshold.

“To say this decision is misguided is an understatement. Commissioner Reardon is undermining the men and women across our great state whom she is supposed to serve. Her decision to adopt this disastrous proposal to lower the overtime wage threshold for farm workers is going to lead to lost wages for workers, increased costs for farmers, and higher prices for consumers,” she said. “I want to remind Commissioner Reardon that without our farms, we will have no food. And the facts are clear: the adoption of this proposal is going to drive an overwhelming amount of our farmers out of the state, and many out of business altogether. I would strongly urge her to reverse this decision, which has been opposed by farmers and farm workers alike.”

More information on the Farm Laborers Wage Board process and next steps can be found on NYSDOL’s Farm Laborers Wage Board webpage.