Labor Management Issues Affecting NY – LERGP Podcast #139

Labor Management Issues Affecting NY – LERGP Podcast #139


My name’s Kevin Martin. I’m coming to you from the Lake Erie Regional
Grape Program. And I wanted to continue our discussion in
this week’s podcast about some labor management issues affecting New York. Last week we basically covered how that is
impacting Pennsylvania. And so far we don’t really see much of an
impact on our bordering counties. So for the moment this is just an issue for
New York. As we see low unemployment maybe we will start
to see spillover near the border. But we are not there yet. One of the other things that’s going to hit
New York farmers are new overtime rules. And we’ve been sort of trickling out information
as it becomes available. But we’re pretty much finalized at least for
now. The way the regulations are set up, there
is going to be the ability for those regulations to change based on decisions a board makes
relatively soon after implementation of the law in January of 2020. So we won’t actually know anything right away
in terms of how it will be set forever, but we know what it is going to look like in January. And one of the concerns of course is just
paying overtime. And some farmers have thought that maybe the
best way around that would be to salary an employee. And any farmer is free to provide an employee
with a salary and to sort of make it easier to pay the employee with potentially a little
bit less paperwork. You know, whether they work 28 or 29 hours,
you can pay them the same amount. It may be enticing to both the employer and
the employee. To avoid overtime rules though the employee
has to be exempt. So just because you pay them a salary, doesn’t
mean you’re avoiding overtime. You could have a salaried employee who’s a
non-exempt employee. There’s a fairly complicated test to figure
out if an employee is actually exempt. I’m not saying that private companies are
not necessarily pretty aggressive with their interpretation of this test. But it does go to litigation, especially for
large companies or if there’s a wage complaint. So compliance is fairly important. Exempt employees have to be either executive,
administrative, or professional in capacity. And there’s a definition and a test for each
of those different roles. We could get into that a little bit if we
have some time, but what I really want to touch on is what’s been a long-standing federal
and state requirement but it’s been expanded in New York State recently. It was supposed to be expanded on the federal
level, but it was never finalized and eventually repealed. So whether they’re executive, administrative,
or professional, there’s a minimum salary requirement. And in New York in 2020, for most of upstate,
that will be $937.50 per week. On December 31, 2020. It will be $885 before that. So basically what that means, at least I think,
I’m not exactly sure where wage prices are going to go and exactly what all farmers pay,
but that salary minimum test is going to prevent most growers from using a salary to avoid
overtime pay. Keep in mind this overtime pay is for overtime
pay for over 60 hours per week. Or because of that strange addition instead
of being 40 hours per week which is standard in the rest of the workforce, it will also
be for workers who work, and consent to working because you can’t make them anymore, work
more than 6 days in a row. So on that 7th day, whether its their 65th
hour or their 7th hour of work, if its 7 days in a row they’ll be paid overtime. And overtime of course, just like the rest
of the world, the rest of the private sector, is time and a half. If you do start paying more than $885 or $937
per week, we could probably get into the test of what a professional is, what an administrative
person is, or what an executive is. For the most part it would probably have to
be either a professional or an executive in terms of trying to pass the test. And in terms of executive, you’re really going
to need to have an employee who has authority over other employees. Meaning if you’re out on vacation
they’re going to have the authority to fire one of your other employees. And if they don’t meet that test, its going
to start to get a little tricky. That being said, I don’t think the salary
minimum test is going to be passed by most of our growers, so I don’t want to get into
that too much. I also want to remind you that sexual harassment
training is due October 9th so you should have had a policy in place last year. There are form policies online that the state
has offered, that Cornell has written specifically for agriculture if you want something a little
more tailored to your business. And then the training for that as well, both
New York State and Cornell have provided some model training that passes the requirement. Its not something that an outside individual
can just provide to you online or through a youtube video because there has to be at
least some interaction and ability for a grower, or for an employee to ask a grower or owner
or manager questions about the policy. Paid family leave is still a thing. And grape growers/farmers still remain exempt
from it. As the adoption rate of that goes up, everybody
else outside of farming and a few other industries are required to have paid family leave for
their employees. I think it’s just something to watch as we
see rising labor costs because if there is an expectation that paid family leave is provided,
if the employees demand it, there is some paperwork to it, but there’s not really a
whole lot of cost to it. So it is something you could consider, depending
on the nature of your employees and how many employees you have, it may be worthwhile to
you. Other than that, there are some other changes
that I think we’ll touch on in another podcast. But the overtime rules and the salary test
that goes along with it, the paid family leave, and the sexual harassment policies are sort
of the big things that are hitting right now. LIke I said, last week we touched on minimum
wage and that covers a lot of the big changes. But this is something you need to stay on
top of if you have employees, and we all know most growers have quite a few employees, especially
during the pruning season and harvest season. So hopefully you catch this either during
or after harvest and think about how you can change your practices to cope with these regulations. If you have any questions please contact our
offices or comment down below. We’d love to hear from you! Thanks a lot for joining us!

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