Employers are not required to pay overtime to employees performing work that meets the definition of “agriculture” (see definition below) In some cases they may also be exempt from paying minimum wage.
Only workers engaged in agricultural employment for 100 percent of the workweek are exempt from overtime. However, some employees of agricultural employers handle or otherwise work on products not grown by their own employer, or do not work within the definition of agriculture as outlined above and are due overtime after 40 hours. An employee who processes or handles ANY AMOUNT of another farmer’s crop is entitled to overtime under both state and federal law. An employer should seek independent legal advice regarding their overtime obligations.
As long as the responsibilities of the office staff are limited to duties integral to the farming operations of their employer, they are also exempt.
Exemption for small farms
Both federal and state laws provide minimum wage exemptions for “small” farms, however, the criteria are different for each. Employers in small farming operations must take care to be sure that they are exempt under each law before deciding not to pay minimum wage.
Federal criteria: If the employer did not employ more than 500 man-days of agricultural labor in any calendar quarter of the preceding calendar year, the minimum wage exemption applies for all agricultural employees for the entire following year. A man-day is any day during which an employee performs agricultural labor for at least one hour.
State criteria: If the employer did not employ more than 500 piece rate work days in any calendar quarter of the preceding calendar year, the employer’s hand harvesters and pruning laborers who are paid on a piece rate basis are exempt from minimum wage for the entire following year.
For the purposes of the minimum wage exemptions the payment of piece rates must be “in an operation generally recognized as piecework in the region of production.”
Workers who spend more than 50 percent of their time in the range production of livestock are exempt from minimum wage. To be exempt, workers must be paid on a salary basis, which is defined as 2,080 hours times the current minimum wage, then divided by 12.
“Agriculture” includes farming in all its branches. Among other things, agriculture includes cultivating and tilling the soil, dairying, producing, cultivating, growing, and harvesting any agricultural or horticultural commodities, raising livestock, bees, fur-bearing animals, or poultry and any practices performed by a farmer on a farm as an incident to or in conjunction with such farming operations, including preparing for market, delivering products to storage or to market or to carriers for transportation to market. “Agriculture” generally does not include forest products and the harvesting of timber; however, effective January 17, 2009, the federal regulation (which Oregon will follow) addressing nursery activities was amended to include the production of Christmas trees within those activities considered to be “agriculture” under the law. As a result, workers engaged in the planting, pruning, and harvesting of Christmas trees are considered to be agricultural employees who are not required to receive overtime compensation for hours worked beyond 40 in a week.
Source: Bureau of Labor & Industries