Best Ohio Wage And Hour Lawyer Help: Is my farm job exempt from minimum wage? What can I do if my job is not paying me minimum wage? Does the agricultural exemption minimum wage and overtime exemption for apply to me?
As our wage and hour attorneys have previously blogged about, employers are required to pay minimum wage and overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA“). (See How Do I Find The Right Attorney For My Overtime Claim?; What Is Minimum Wage In Ohio For 2016? – Call The Right Attorney and Can I Have More Than One Employer For My Wage & Hour Claims?).
The FLSA protects those employees who complain to their manager and supervisors about actual or perceived wage and hour violations. This means that an employee is protected against retaliation , including from wrongful termination, for reporting suspected, good faith violations of the FLSA including the failure to pay overtime compensation or minimum wage violations, even if the employee ends up being wrong.
The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular hourly rates for hours worked beyond 40 per week. As our wage and hour lawyers have also discussed before, this means that everyone is not entitled to make minimum wage. (See Is Everyone Entitled To Earn Minimum Wage? – Call The Right Attorney; Can Seasonal Employees Be Paid Less Than Minimum Wage?; Can Minors Be Paid Below Minimum Wage? – Call The Right Attorney; Can Amusement Park Workers Be Paid Less Than Minimum Wage?; and Are Outside Sales People Entitled To Minimum Wage? Ohio Lawyer Best Help). However, because there is always the issue of employers committing wage theft by wrongfully cheating workers out of their rightfully earned minimum wage and overtime pay, it is always worth going back over these issues.
Most people know that there is a minimum wage and overtime laws, but are not aware that these wage and hour laws do not apply to everyone. Like any rule, there are several exceptions. The most common exceptions are:
- Commissioned sales employees of retail or service establishments are exempt from overtime if more than half of the employee’s earnings come from commissions and the employee averages at least one and one-half times the minimum wage for each hour worked.
- Computer professionals: Section 13(a)(17) of the FLSA provides that certain computer professionals paid at least $27.63 per hour are exempt from the overtime provisions of the FLSA, but they have to be paid minimum wage.
- Drivers, driver’s helpers, loaders and mechanics are exempt from the overtime pay provisions of the FLSA if employed by a motor carrier, and if the employee’s duties affect the safety of operation of the vehicles in transportation of passengers or property in interstate or foreign commerce. However, they too must be paid minimum wage.
- Farm workers employed on small farms are exempt from both the minimum wage and overtime pay provisions of the FLSA. Young workers employed on small farms, with parental consent, are also exempt from the child labor provisions of the FLSA. Other farm workers are exempt from the FLSA’s overtime provisions.
- Salesmen, partsmen and mechanics employed by automobile dealerships are exempt from the overtime pay provisions of the FLSA, but not minimum wage requirements.
- Seasonal and recreational establishments: Employees employed by certain seasonal and recreational establishments are exempt from both the minimum wage and overtime pay provisions of the FLSA.
Today, our lawyers are going to talk about farmers and other works that work on a farm. Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, examined the farm worker exemption in Barks v. Silver-Bait, LLC. John Barks, and 18 other former employees, would have been owed unpaid overtime if Silver Bait was found to have violated the FLSA. However, Silver Bait claimed that they fell within the agricultural exemption to the FLSA. With respect to agriculture, the FLSA provides:
“Agriculture” includes farming in all its branches and among other things includes the cultivation and tillage of the soil, dairying, the production, cultivation, growing, and harvesting of any agricultural or horticultural commodities (including commodities defined as agricultural commodities in section 1141j(g) of Title 12), the raising of livestock, bees, fur-bearing animals, or poultry, and any practices (including any forestry or lumbering operations) performed by a farmer or on a farm as an incident to or in conjunction with such farming operations, including preparation for market, delivery to storage or to market or to carriers for transportation to market.
On this point, the Court of Appeal discussed the application of exemptions to minimum wage laws:
The FLSA requires employers to pay covered workers overtime for time worked in excess of forty hours, but there are exemptions for enumerated occupations and industries. 29 U.S.C. §§ 207, 213. These exemptions are “narrowly construed against the employers seeking to assert them,” A.H. Phillips, Inc. v. Walling, 324 U.S. 490, 493, 65 S.Ct. 807, 89 L.Ed. 1095 (1945); accord Martin v. Ind. Mich. Power Co., 381 F.3d 574, 578 (6th Cir.2004), and their “enlargement by implication” is precluded by the statute’s detail and particularity, Citicorp Indus. Credit, Inc. v. Brock, 483 U.S. 27, 35, 107 S.Ct. 2694, 97 L.Ed.2d 23 (1987) (quoting Addison v. Holly Hill Fruit Prods., Inc., 322 U.S. 607, 616-17, 64 S.Ct. 1215, 88 L.Ed. 1488 (1944)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Only an employee who is “plainly and unmistakably within [an exemption’s] terms and spirit” will be held exempt. Arnold v. Ben Kanowsky, Inc., 361 U.S. 388, 392, 80 S.Ct. 453, 4 L.Ed.2d 393 (1960); accord Chao v. Double JJ Resort Ranch, 375 F.3d 393, 396 (6th Cir.2004).
Among the exempt are “employee[s] employed in agriculture.” 29 U.S.C. § 213(b)(12). This exemption “embrace[s] the whole field of agriculture.” Maneja v. Waialua Agric. Co., 349 U.S. 254, 259, 75 S.Ct. 719, 99 L.Ed. 1040 (1955); see also Addison, 322 U.S. at 612, 64 S.Ct. 1215 (describing the exemption as “far-reaching”); Reich v. Tiller Helicopter Servs., Inc., 8 F.3d 1018, 1025-26 (5th Cir.1993) (discussing the “broad reach” intended by Congress). Yet “no matter how broad” its coverage, the exemption must “apply only to agriculture,” and courts are “left with the problem of what is and what is not properly included within that term.” Maneja, 349 U.S. at 259, 75 S.Ct. 719.
Silver Bait was a worm farm, engaged in the business of growing and raising worms. For those of us unfamiliar with worm farming, Silver Bait imports baby worms from Europe and feeds and grows them, and eventually sells them for bait. The employees take the baby worms off the trucks, place them in twenty-foot concrete beds and cover them with corn feed that are grown on Silver Bait’s land. The worms are fed three times a week and grow for two or more months before they are sold for bait. The court looked at the definition of agriculture and farming and reasoned that the definitions suggest that “raising worms is not a traditional subject of agriculture but still falls within the margins of the term’s ordinary meaning as involving the production of animals useful to man and the preparation of products for man’s use.” The court ultimately held that the growing and raising of worms is a form of farming because there was little difference between Silver Bait and a traditional farm. This was a close call by the court, and it could have easily been decided in favor of the employees. If you are unsure whether you are entitled to minimum wage and overtime, it is important that you call the right attorney to help you determine what your rights are.
If you believe that your employer is not paying you all of your wages, paying you less than minimum wage, unlawfully deducting money from your paycheck, not paying you time and a half for overtime, or is otherwise cheating you out of wages requires contact the minimum wage violation lawyers and overtime claim attorneys at The Spitz Law Firm today for a free and confidential initial consultation. You may have a claim under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act or Ohio Fair Labor Standards Act. The wage and hour lawyers at The Spitz Law Firm will provide you with the best options for your wage and hour pay dispute situation. If you even think that you may be entitled to overtime pay that you are not being paid, call 866-797-6040.
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