Farm labor rules:


SALEM, Ohio – Though it’s still May, chances are you’re already thinking ahead to the myriad things that need done on the farm this summer. And chances are you’re thinking about getting some hired help to make the load lighter.
Better make sure you know the Fair Labor Standards Act rules on who can do what type of job, how they’re paid, and that the U.S. Department of Labor is watching you.

Ohio’s minimum wage for nonfarm laborers is $6.85 per hour; Pennsylvania’s is $6.25 per hour but jumps to $7.15 per hour beginning July 1. West Virginia’s minimum wage is $5.85 per hour, but that is set to jump to $6.55 July 1, 2007, and again to $7.25 July 1, 2008.

Any employer in agriculture who did not utilize more than 500 “man days” of agricultural labor in any calendar quarter of the preceding calendar year is exempt from the minimum wage and overtime pay provisions of the FLSA for the current calendar year. A “man day” is defined as any day during which an employee performs agricultural work for at least one hour.

The law says agricultural businesses are exempt from paying overtime, but only on agricultural-related activities. For example, you don’t have to pay overtime to someone picking strawberries in the fields, but that clerk in the farm market selling the berries? He or she gets overtime.

Another example offered by Dale Zimmerman, an Ohio DOL investigator: If a sweet corn farm is shipping in sweet corn to repackage and sell, any employee who works on the repackaging line must be paid overtime. An employee working in the farm’s own sweet corn patch may not be paid overtime.

Employees who are immediate family members of the employer are also exempt from collecting overtime pay.

The rules can be tricky; consult the Department of Labor for details.

Minors are allowed to work on farms, but have a restricted list of duties they’re allowed to perform. Any minor of any age is free to work in any activity on a farm owned or operated by his or her parents. The key here is the farm must be owned by the child’s parents, not grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins or neighbors.

Additional resources:

U.S. Department of Labor

Rules on agricultural employment
Fact Sheet #12: Agricultural Employers Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

Minimum wage information

Employing young people

Safety information helpful when employing young people

(Source: U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division)


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Former staff reporter Andrea Zippay wrote for Farm and Dairy from 2001 to 2009.