The following is an adaptation by my colleague Tony DeCristoforo of a post by Bryan Hawkins, Kirk Maag and Adam Belzberg that originally appeared on Stoel Rives World of Employment blog.

California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed AB 1066, which will require grape growers and other agricultural employers in California to pay overtime under the same conditions as non-agricultural businesses. The bill is the first of its kind in the nation.

California law defines employees “employed in an agricultural occupation” broadly to include any employment relating to the cultivation or harvesting of agricultural commodities, or the maintenance and improvement of a farm and/or farm equipment.  Prior to the signing of AB 1066, such employees were entitled to time-and-a-half pay after working 10 hours in a day or 60 hours in a week.  This is substantially different from the overtime laws for California employees in most other industries and occupations, where overtime pay typically kicks in after eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a week.

The practice of exempting certain agricultural employees from overtime laws originated with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which sets federal requirements related to minimum wage, overtime pay, and child labor.  The FLSA was enacted in 1938 and originally exempted certain agricultural employees from both federal minimum wage and overtime pay.  Today, these employees remain exempt from the FLSA’s overtime pay requirements.

AB 1066 gradually lowers the number of hours that vineyard workers and other agricultural employees must work to be entitled to time-and-a-half pay.  Commencing January 1, 2019, most people employed in an agricultural occupation are entitled to overtime pay after working more than nine and one-half hours in any given workday or more than 55 hours in a workweek.  On January 1, 2020, those numbers decrease to nine hours in a workday and 50 hours in a workweek.  Starting January 1, 2021, overtime must be paid after eight and one-half hours in a workday and 45 hours in a workweek.  And as of January 1, 2022, the law requires time-and-a-half pay after eight hours in a workday and 40 hours in a workweek, which is the same as most other California occupations.  The law also provides that beginning January 1, 2022, farmworkers are entitled to twice their regular rate of pay for any work in excess of 12 hours in one day.  For smaller employers, those who employ 25 or fewer employees, the initial phasing-in process begins on January 1, 2022; employees who work for these smaller employers are not entitled to AB 1066’s double-time pay requirement until January 1, 2025.

The law also grants the governor the power to temporarily suspend the scheduled phase-in of these new overtime requirements.  This authority, however, ends on January 1, 2025.

While the phase-in of AB 1066 will not begin until 2019, grape growers and other employers with agricultural operations in California should start thinking now about how they will revise their employment processes to ensure compliance.