Agricultural Processing Workers Unpaid "Off-the-Clock" Investigation
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour has recently started enforcing labor laws that apply to agricultural operations. Specifically, operations which employ workers to handle or produce “value-added” products as well as selling products from other suppliers can be subject to wage and hour violations for such non-agricultural labor. Historically, agricultural workers were exempt from overtime requirements under the “agricultural exemption,” which define agriculture as farming operations, including cultivation of soil, dairying, production, cultivation, growing, and harvesting of commodities, raising livestock, as well as preparation for and delivery to market. A copy of the Department of Labor’s Fact Sheet for Agricultural Employees is available here.
In recent years, though, many farms and agricultural operations have started to employ individuals who not only “produce” the commodities, but also engage in some level of processing or sales of those products. Often, a company or individual that does not own the farm will hire employees to perform work on the farm that would traditionally fall under the agricultural exemption. However, such job duties do not fall under the requirements of the agricultural exemption, and employees engaged in those tasks would potentially be eligible for minimum wage and overtime compensation under state and federal wage and hour laws.
Stueve Siegel Hanson has also successfully represented hourly employees in agricultural processing facilities for unpaid wages and overtime.
In Oddson v. Swift, Case No. 1:09-cv-03034 (D.Co 1/27/10), a group of “alley buyers” responsible for sorting livestock at processing facilities brought claims seeking overtime wages for hours worked in excess of 40, based on their misclassification as exempt employees. Stueve Siegel Hanson vigorously represented the plaintiffs and secured a settlement that resolved the claims of the plaintiffs.
In Garcia v. Tyson, Plaintiffs alleged that Tyson, the worlds’ largest processor of poultry and red meat, illegally deprived earned wages from its hourly work force employed at its Holcomb, Kansas facility. In March 2011, a federal jury in Kansas found against Tyson Foods and Tyson Fresh Meats for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Kansas Wage Payment Act (KWPA).
If you are currently working at an agricultural processing facility or at a farm or agricultural operation where you are also processing or selling products, and you have experienced uncompensated off-the-clock work or overtime, please contact our firm immediately.
You can contact us by completing the form on this page or by calling us at (816)714-7100. Please reference that you are contacting us regarding the Agricultural Employee Investigation.