Labor Matters: Overtime Traps

September 11, 2012 09:42 PM

Anthony Raimondo 2010 06 photoBy Anthony Raimondo

Wage and hour litigation is the fastest-growing type of litigation in the U.S.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the federal wage and hour law that applies to almost all businesses in the country. When state laws are more favorable to employees, employers must follow the state law, but at minimum, they must follow the federal law.

Under the FLSA, agricultural work such as milking and feeding is exempt from overtime but not from minimum wage. However, this can be a trap for employers. In one case, the court decided that a dairy operation’s compost processing was not agricultural for purposes of the exemption, and the dairy faced liability for unpaid overtime.

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Many states have laws that provide overtime for dairy workers. In California, agricultural employees are entitled to overtime after 10 hours of work in a day and on the second consecutive day of work in a workweek.

Many states have detailed wage and hour laws that can lead to exposure to liability:

  • Record keeping. Some dairies make adjustments to time records to avoid overtime, or to prove that meal periods were taken, only to find that the time records lose credibility because they have been altered.
  • Daily rates and salary pay. Generally speaking, it is perfectly legal to pay daily rates or salaries to dairy workers, but overtime must be paid when required.
  • Wage deductions. Other than deductions that are authorized by law, such as taxes, garnishments and similar items, employees must authorize deductions from their wages in writing.
  • Housing. In many cases, the value of housing can be credited toward minimum wage, but in many cases a written agreement is required.

Author’s Note: The goal of this article is to provide employers with current labor and employment law information. The contents should not be interpreted or construed as legal advice or opinion.

Anthony Raimondo is a labor lawyer based in Fresno, Calif. Contact him at

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