Washington agricultural employer groups urge their members to tune into a hearing Thursday, Feb. 9, about a seasonal exemption to the state’s new overtime laws.

In 2021, in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of dairy workers, the State Legislature enacted a law that removed agriculture’s federal exemption to overtime requirements, gradually lowering the threshold at which employers would be required to pay 1.5 times a worker’s regular rate. This year it’s 48 hours, and in 2024 it will drop to 40. Other states have enacted similar measures.

Senate Bill 5476 and House Bill 1523 in the Washington State Legislature would allow growers to set aside 12 weeks each year to bump the overtime threshold to 50 hours. 

The Senate Labor and Commerce Committee will discuss SB 5476 in a hearing at 8 a.m. Feb. 9. Testimony can be provided in person in Olympia or virtually. There also is an option to state your position, pro or con, without testifying. 

The Washington Farm Bureau, the Washington State Tree Fruit Association and wafla, a nonprofit known for H-2A facilitation, each encourage their members to either testify in favor of the bills or register as “pro.” 

For instructions, visit https://app.leg.wa.gov/csi/Senate.

by Ross Courtney