OLYMPIA — The Legislature on Thursday sent Gov. Jay Inslee a bill that will make Washington the first state to give all farmworkers time-and-a-half overtime pay after 40 hours in a week. The bill will phase in the requirement in 2024.
Washington will nose out California. The Golden State has been phasing in overtime pay since 2019, but not all farmworkers there will be paid time-and-a-half after 40 hours until 2025.
Beginning in 2022, Washington farmworkers must be paid overtime after 55 hours. The threshold drops to 48 hours in 2023 and finally to 40 hours the next year.
The bill also protects farms from back-pay lawsuits filed after the state Supreme Court ruled in November that it was unconstitutional to deny dairy workers overtime. The suits seek to apply the decision retroactively.
The bill doesn’t change the court’s ruling. Dairy workers are receiving time-and-a-half after 40 hours a week now. But the Washington State Dairy Federation said Thursday it was thankful for protection from lawsuits.
Farm groups had lobbied for a seasonal exemption to overtime, allowing farmers to choose 12 weeks a year to pay time-and-a-half after 50 hours. Labor groups opposed the provision, and Democrats rejected a Republican-sponsored amendment to add it.
Nevertheless, the Washington Farm Bureau said the bill was “tremendous news for all connected to agriculture in Washington,” considering the “ag-overtime disaster created by the state Supreme Court.”
The Senate voted 42-6 to accept the House’s changes to Senate Bill 5172. The House didn’t change the overtime provisions, but did strengthen protections against back-pay lawsuits. Six Republicans voted against the bill.
On California farms with more than 25 employees, workers will receive time-and-a-half after 40 hours beginning in 2022.
Workers on smaller farms will receive time-and-a-half after 55 hours. The threshold will drop to 50 hours in 2023 and 40 hours in 2025.