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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Bains v. DIR: Wage Orders for Agricultural Workers

The introduction to Bains v. Department of Industrial Relations (Cal.App. 2/16/16) includes a terrible pun. See if you can find it:
Prunes are harvested from trees and must be dried to be marketed. Two administrative rules set forth different overtime pay rates for agricultural workers who harvest fruit and for those who process fruit for market; generally speaking, the latter receive more generous overtime pay. This case plumbs the line dividing the workers subject to each respective rule, as applicable to the agricultural practices described herein. 
Plumb and plum, get it? Prunes are dried plums. I'm surprised they didn't say anything about the workers who prune the trees. 

Anyway, the plaintiffs sought a declaration that certain of their workers were subject to Wage Order 14, which provides the less generous overtime rules than Wage Order 13. The trial court ruled against the plaintiffs, and the Court of Appeal affirmed, holding as follows:

The fact that the plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies did not deprive the court of jurisdiction over the case. The plaintiffs asked the trial court to decide the issue and rejected the DLSE's position that an administrative hearing should be held first. To the extent that the trial court erred, the plaintiffs invited the error.
Wage Order 14 applies generally to employees engaged in planting, tending, and harvesting crops. Those employees receive overtime compensation only if they work more than ten hours in a workday or more than six days in a workweek.

Wage Order 13 applies to those "employed in industries preparing agricultural products for market, on the farm." Like most other California employees, they receive overtime compensation if they work more than eight hours in a workday, more than 40 hours in a workweek, or more than six days in a workweek.

Those employees engaged in shaking plums from trees and collecting them in bins are engaged in harvesting and fall within Wage Order 14. Those engaged in drying the fruit in permanently fixed structures on the farm are engaged in preparing the fruit for market. They fall within Wage Order 13.

The opinion is available here.

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