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What is an agricultural employee under California labor and wage law?

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Why is this important to know if I'm covered by California agricultural wage laws?
 
California has some of the most powerful worker wage rights in the United States, if not the world. Agricultural employees are protected by a unique set of laws. In many respects, agricultural employees have some of the strictest workers protection rights of any workers in California.
    
With the new minimum wage laws and overtime laws coming to effect, it can be said that no workers in the world have more protection that California agricultural workers.
 

Why are California labor wage laws needed to protect California farm workers? 

 
Because agricultural workers have almost always been recent immigrants. Historically farm workers have been largely Hispanic and many don’t speak English.
 
The reality is that farmers and farm labor contractors have cheated, stolen and robbed farm workers. Now with big companies owning the big farm in California - farm workers are being abused by these big companies. This is why the law protects California farm workers form being taken advantage of by these big farming companies.
 
And it may be worse if not just as bad for the smaller and medium size farms because they are trying to compete with the large company farms.
 
The biggest reason why these company farms are not being held responsible is that farm workers either don’t know their legal rights or don’t enforce their legal rights.
 
The purpose of this web page and this web site is to educate California farm workers an help you get the pay that you deserve. So you can enforce your legal rights to get paid the wages that you deserve.
 
 

In this article I address the following questions and more: 

What is an agricultural employee under California wage law?
 
What is an agricultural employee under the California Labor Code?
 
What is agricultural employee under the California Wage Order 14?
 
California Code of Regulations
 
Agricultural Employers must provide you with the following:
 
The common law (the legal cases) for worker rights in California protect you
 
California Supreme court helps workers
 
What if I'm not getting paid the wages or money that I think I am owed from the farm company or farm labor contractor?

The way to protect your rights under California law


What is an agricultural employee under California wage law?

There are four main sources of wage laws for agricultural employees in California:
 
1.  The California Labor Code.
2.  California Wage Order 14-2001.
3.  California Code of Regulations.
4.  The common law.  That is, court cases.
 
Sometimes the law for all four of these sources are the same. Sometimes, they provide different rights and laws.
 
For instance, the California Wage Orders provide the law for the wages, hours and working conditions California employees - including agricultural employees.
 
The provisions for overtime pay for agricultural workers are the same for all of these sources of law.
 
However, California Wage Order 14 provides the standards for rest breaks in California for agricultural workers. These rest break standards are not stated in the Labor Code. 
 
The California Code of Regulations - Title 18, Section Section 3395 (Heat Illness Prevention) provide additional rest break requirements for employees that work outside (which are most farm workers) and in the “agricultural industry.”
 
And Labor Code Section 226.7 provides one hour’s pay premium pay that employers have to pay if a rest break is not authorized and permitted pursuant to these laws. Brinker vs. Superior Court, 53 Cal.4th 1004, 1053 (2012)
 
Many people say that the Brinker California Supreme Court is the most important wage case ever for California workers. I know the Brinker case real well because I represented the workers in the Brinker case.
 

Why Bill is asked to testify concerning wage law legislation at the California State Senate and the California Assembly?

What is an agricultural worker under California law?
A No B.S. straight-shooter lawyer

 
Believe it or not, Bill is known for being a no B.S. straight-up lawyer. Besides being known as one of the leading experts on this area of the law in California, one of the reasons why Bill is asked to testify at legislature hearings is because he is known for being straight-forward and blunt. He is known for being no B.S., with no lawyer-talk, no double-talk.


What is an agricultural employee under the California Labor Code?

California Labor Code Section 205.5 provides the law regarding the payment of wages to California agricultural employees.  California Labor Code Section 205.5.
Meaning, what wages are and when they have to be paid.
 
Section 205.5 specifically uses the definition of agricultural employees used in California Labor Code Section 1140.4:
 
 The term “agricultural employee” or “employee” shall mean one engaged in agriculture, as such term is defined in subdivision (a)....
 California Labor Code Section 1140.4(b).
 
The term “agriculture” includes:
 
farming in all its branches, and, among other things, includes the cultivation and tillage of the soil, dairying, the production, cultivation, growing, and harvesting of any agricultural or horticultural commodities..., the raising of livestock, bees, fur-bearing animals, or poultry, and any practices (including any forestry or lumbering operations) performed by a farmer or on a farm as an incident to or in conjunction with such farming operations, including preparation for market and delivery to storage or to market or to carriers for transportation to market.
California Labor Code Section 1140.4(b). (Emphasis added). 
 

What is agricultural employee under the California Wage Order 14?

For all California employees it is important to determine which industry you work in in order for you to determine which Wage Order you’re covered by.  California agricultural workers/ farm workers have powerful rights and wage protections. 
 
Each of the Wage Orders provided different protections to you.  If you work in one of the aforementioned industries; then you’re wage, hours and working conditions are controlled by Wage Order 14.
 
Wage Order 14 defines “employee” as “any person employed by an employer.”  Wage Order 14, Section 2(E).
 
“Employer” means any person ( or association, organization, partnership, business trust, limited liability company, or corporation) who directly or indirectly, or through an agent or any other person, employs or exercises control over the wages, hours, or working conditions of any person. Wage Order 14, Section 2(E).
 
Employ means to engage, suffer, or permit to work. Wage Order 14, Section 2(C).
 
Wage Order 14 states,  “Employed in an agricultural occupation” means any of the following described occupations:  
 
(1) The preparation, care, and treatment of farm land, pipeline, or ditches, including leveling for agricultural purposes, plowing, discing, and fertilizing the soil; 

(2) The sowing and planting of any agricultural or horticultural commodity;  

 
(3) The care of any agricultural or horticultural commodity; as used in this subdivision, “care” includes but is not limited to, cultivation, irrigation, weed control, thinning, heating, pruning, or tying, fumigating, spraying, and dusting;  
 
(4) The harvesting of any agricultural or horticultural commodity, including but not limited to, picking, cutting, threshing, mowing, knocking off, field chopping, bunching, baling, balling, field packing, and placing in field containers or in the vehicle in which the commodity will be hauled, and transportation on the farm or to a place of first processing or distribution;  

(5) The assembly and storage of any agricultural or horticultural commodity, including but not limited to, loading, road siding, banking, stacking, binding, and piling;  

(6) The raising, feeding and management of livestock, fur bearing animals, poultry, fish, mollusks, and insects, including but not limited to herding, housing, hatching, milking, shearing, handling eggs, and extracting honey;  

(7) The harvesting of fish, as defined by Section 45 of the Fish and Game Code, for commercial sale; 

(8) The conservation, improvement or maintenance of such farm and its tools and equipment. 
Wage Order 14 Section 2(D).
 
 
California Code of Regulations

Agricultural Employers must provide you with the following:

• § 3457 (c). Provide potable drinking water, single-use cups, toilets and hand-washing facilities
• § 3395 (d). Allow access to shade, cool down rest periods, recovery periods
• § 3441 (a). Reduce machinery hazards, e.g., guards for machinery and safe practices when using agricultural equipment
• § 3395 (f). Establish Emergency Response Procedures
• § 3395 (i). Establish a Heat Illness Prevention Program
• § 3203 (a). Establish an Injury and Illness Prevention Program
• § 3439 (a). Ensure availability of first-aid materials onsite
• § 3395 (h). Provide employee and supervisor training on heat illness prevention
• § 342 (a). Report work-related fatalities and serious injuries to Cal/OSHA
California Code of Regulations Title 8
 

The common law (the legal cases) for worker rights in California protect you

The law in California has historically protected workers from the companies that they work for.
 
Under the common law, employ meant to “suffer, or permit to work.” Martinez v. Combs, 49 Cal. 4th 35, 69 (2010).
 
As courts explained, the language meant “that [the proprietor] shall not employ by contract, nor shall he permit by acquiescence, nor suffer by a failure to hinder.”
Martinez v. Combs, 49 Cal. 4th 35, 69 (2010). In other words, if the company saw someone performing work for them, and they didn't stop them, then the person performing the work is an employee. 
 
For example, the law found a manufacturing company liable for industrial injuries suffered by a boy hired by his father to oil machinery. In another case the law found a mining company to be an em employer liable for the injuries to a boy that was paid by the by coal miners to carry water. Martinez v. Combs, 49 Cal. 4th 35, 58 (2010).
 
In both of these instances, the manufacturer didn’t hire the injured boy and the mining company didn’t hire the injured boy. Yet the law held the manufacturer and the mining company to be the employer of the injured boys. Because they suffered and permitted the boys to work. They didn't stop them from working, so the companies were found to be the employer of the injured boys and were responsible for their injuries. 
 
Now, think about you working on a farm. You may have been hired by a farm labor contractor. The farm company is going to claim that you work for the farm labor contractor and not the farm.  The farm company will try and evade responsibility for you not being paid the wages you’re owed under California law.
 
Yet, in these circumstance, most of the time, California law will hold the farm labor contractor and the farm company to be joint employers. Meaning, under the law they both owe you for the wages that you have been cheated out of.
 

California Supreme court helps workers

Time and again the California Supreme Court has held in favor of protecting workers in wage and hour decisions. Since the Brinker California Supreme Court case - the California Supreme Court has protected workers

Putting aside the all the great substantive law protecting California workers that has came out of the landmark California Supreme Court case - Brinker vs. Superior Court, the Brinker case is fundamentally about enforcing California’s strong worker protection laws.
 
One of the strong worker protection concepts in the Brinker decision is:

 
In light of the remedial nature of the legislative enactments authorizing the regulation of wages, hours and working conditions for the protection and benefit of employees, the statutory provisions are  to be liberally construed with an eye to promoting such protection.
Brinker Restaurant Corp. v. Superior Court (2012) 53 Cal.4th 1004, 1026-1027.
 
This means that California’s Wage Orders and Labor Code are to be interpreted liberally in order to protect workers.
 
I know the Brinker case very well, because I represented the workers in the historic Brinker Supreme Court case.
 
Brinker was a landmark decision, protecting workers. Brinker was perhaps the most important California Supreme Court case ever. Because out of Brinker, flowed all of the other decisions

The following California Supreme Court cases: Brinker, Ayala, Peabody, Iskanian, Mendiola, Kilby, Augustus, Williams, Alvarado, Dynamex, and Troester;   all stand for the proposition that the California Labor Code and California’s Wage Orders must be interpreted liberally in order to protect workers.


What if I'm not getting paid the wages or money that I think I am owed from the farm company or farm labor contractor?

First, of all here is great article on California wage law for farm workers.
 
Second, if you believe that you’re getting cheated out of your wages, I recommend that you find the best, honest California wage lawyer that you can find.
 
If you like, you can call our office and talk to us. 619-304-1000.  We have represented workers from all over California.

Third, here are the best way to protect your rights under California wage law: 

The way to protect your rights under California law

There are two ways that the courts will help you protect your rights as a California worker:

1. Class action lawsuit. A class action lawsuit is where one worker can bring the case for all of the workers. A class action lawsuit is the best way for workers to band together and get money from the company for unpaid wages. 

2. Private Attorney Generals Act (PAGA).  A PAGA lawsuit is how one worker can bring a case for the State of California in order to protect California wage laws and safety laws. 

 

Questions or if you need help right now?


Call us at 619-304-1000  - If you call after regular business hours, when you leave a message, be sure to repeat your name and telephone number twice, so we get it correctly. And be sure to indicate whether it's okay if we respond by text.
 
Text us at 858-281-8008 - Be sure and put "new wage case" in your text.
 
Or leave us a message on this webpage.
 

 
 

 
 
 
This article isn't legal advice
 
These discussions and/or examples are not legal advice. All legal situations are different. These testimonials, endorsements, photos and/or discussions do not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter, your particular case/ situation. Every case is different. There are any number of reasons why class actions are not certified, not won and/or PAGA actions are not successful.
 
Just because we have gotten great results in so many other unpaid wage cases, doesn't guarantee in particular result in other cases. Including, your wage case. Every case is different. In other words, your mileage may vary.
William Turley
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“When I seek out professional advice, I don’t want B.S., I want it straight up. I figure you do also.”
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