• “You Shall Reap More Than You Sow” Under a New Interpretation of the Massachusetts Overtime Statute’s Agricultural Exemption
  • April 24, 2019 | Author: Andrew P. Botti
  • Law Firm: McLane Middleton, Professional Association - Woburn Office
  • For several decades the Massachusetts overtime statute, G.L. c. 151, §1A, required generally that an employee working in excess of forty hours per week be paid “at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which he is employed.” The statute included twenty categories of exceptions from this overtime pay requirement. One such exemption applied to laborers “engaged in agriculture and farming on a farm.” G.L. c. 151 §1A(19). The SJC has recently held, however, that farm growing and harvesting “does not include post-harvesting activities.” The case is Arias – Villano v. Chang & Sons Enterprises, Inc., 481 Mass. 625 (2019). Thus, the laborers in Arias-Villano were entitled to time and a half for the type of work they performed beyond “agricultural and farm” work is excess of forty hours per week. That is, growing and harvesting does not include “cleaning, sorting, and packaging” of or related to the agricultural product itself. The workers were entitled to overtime pay for such ancillary duties.

    The Court expressly rejected the defendant bean growers attempt to apply the broad definition of the agricultural overtime exemption found in the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The FLSA defines “Agriculture” to include “any practices ….performed by a farm or on a farm as incident to or in conjunction with such farming operations[.]” 29 USC §203(F). The Court held that the agricultural exemption in the state statute was to be narrowly considered. Thus, it only applied to “the work of planting, raising and harvesting crops,” and not to work incidental thereto.