11th Circuit Court Says that Farm Workers Were Entitled to Overtime for the Hours They Spent Transporting Other Workers to and from Work

There are many ways in which a Fair Labor Standards Act violation can occur. One of those is when your employer fails to pay you overtime for the work you did in excess of 40 hours in a week. This failure could mean missing out on a substantial amount of pay. Your employer may try to avoid paying and avoid liability by arguing that the FLSA does not entitle you to receive overtime pay. When that happens to you, fight back with an experienced Atlanta unpaid overtime lawyer.

You probably already know that certain groups of workers are described as “exempt” when it comes to the overtime provisions of the FLSA. In other words, employers do not violate the law when they fail to pay those workers overtime. Generally, a lot of folks associate “exempt employee” jobs with “white collar” salaried positions. These workers aren’t the only ones who are exempt. Another group of exempt workers is agricultural workers.

As the overtime case of a fruit harvesting and hauling company based in Florida reveals, though, not all work done in connection with an agricultural operation is, in fact, covered by the agriculture exemption to the FLSA. In other words, just because you work in the agriculture business, that does not automatically mean you cannot be owed overtime pay.

The fruit harvesting company in this case relied heavily on the H-2A visa program to populate its workforce. (H-2A is a program for temporary agricultural workers where the employer is required to provide the workers with many basic necessities, including housing, laundry facilities, and food.)

The people the company employed as “crew leaders” were tasked, not just with supervising the field workers, but also transporting them back and forth between the fields and the employer-provided housing (as well as taking them to the laundromat, grocery, and bank.) Because some of the housing facilities the employer provided were very far away from the work fields, the crew leaders’ trips transporting the field workers took as much as two hours.

The crew leaders received no overtime pay, so they sued. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, whose rulings directly impact federal cases in Georgia, Florida, and Alabama, sided with the crew leaders, deciding that the exemption did not apply when the workers were transporting the field workers from place to place.

The Work Wasn’t ‘Farming’ and Didn’t Occur ‘on a Farm,’ So It Wasn’t Exempt 

For your work to fall under the agricultural exemption, it must either be farming or be activities performed on a farm. That latter half of the exemption is limited in that, for “work ‘performed . . . on a farm’ to qualify as ‘agriculture,’ it must be connected and subordinate to primary agricultural operations on that same farm.” The law is very clear that “work performed on a farm which is not incidental to or in conjunction with such farmer’s farming operation” is not included. Also not included under the exemption are “operations performed off a farm if performed by employees employed by someone other than the farmer whose agricultural products are being worked on.”

That’s true even if the activity was something necessary to facilitate a farming activity. Even if it was indispensable, your work is still not exempt unless it was farming or occurred on a farm.

If you have been denied the overtime pay you deserve, you probably have many questions and probably feel uncertain about what to do. Start by talking to the knowledgeable Atlanta unpaid overtime attorneys at the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert. Our firm has a long track record of helping workers just like you to get what you’re owed under the law. Contact us through this website or at 877-986-5529 to schedule a consultation regarding your situation.

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