UPDATE: On April 9, the House of Representatives passed ESSB 5172 to protect farms from overtime backpay lawsuits. If the bill goes through concurrence without issue it will be sent to the governor’s desk. You can use the tool below to encourage him to sign the bill into law.
In November 2020, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that, moving forward, dairy farms must pay overtime rates to their employees, removing longstanding laws about farm employment. While this move may have been intended to help farmworkers, many of them are unhappy about the impacts this ruling has had on their work.
Most significantly, unfair lawsuits have been filed against over 30 farms claiming 3 years of overtime backpay. These lawsuits would devastate farms, and lead to the loss of thousands of well-paying farm jobs. The legislature’s fix for this issue also includes phased-in overtime for the rest of agriculture, but unfortunately fails to recognize the seasonal nature of farm work.
Farmworkers have become accustomed to and dependent on the additional hours that they work during busy seasons, most significantly during the harvest. For many farmworkers, the ability to work additional hours is what draws them to farming, and limiting them to 40 hours per week will force them to find a second job. Passing ESSB 5172 with an amendment for a seasonality provision will protect farms from unfair lawsuits and give farmworkers the job and income security they’ve worked so hard for.
Please tell your legislators to protect farms and farmworkers, and encourage your friends and family to join in support as well!