WCFA Supports SB 5172
WCFA Supports SB 5172: Preventing Courts from Requiring Farmers Pay Retroactive Overtime
SB 5172 simply says a court cannot award back wages and penalties after it changes a law through a ruling.
The state Supreme Court ruled the exemption from paying the overtime rate (1.5 x regular rate) is unconstitutional. The Legislature passed the law in 1959. Last November, the Court said it was unconstitutional and the overtime rate must be paid.
Now, attorneys and activists are trying to cash in on the ruling and get three years of back wages and penalties from farm employers. The Supreme Court did not rule on back pay and penalties, but three justices said they wanted to do so. Four justices said there should NOT be back wages and penalties. There was not a majority on either side of that question.
The WCFA is supporting the Dairy Federation’s request of the Court to reconsider its ruling and put the issue of back wages to rest. It is unconstitutional, we argue, to apply their ruling retroactively. In the meantime, we are asking the Legislature to make it abundantly clear – by passing SB 5172 – that a court CANNOT retroactively apply a law that it created by turning existing law on its head.
SB 5172 is needed to stop the unfair and unreasonable litigation is now occurring because the State Supreme Court opened the door for this windfall litigation by lawyers.
Here is what SB 5172 will do:
- The bill would remove any confusion on this issue. Chaos-induced litigation is already causing mental and financial grief among the farmers being sued.
- SB 5172 should be considered and passed by the legislature because the Legislature is the policy-setting body in our state.
- This bill is needed to stop a court-induced conflict between farmers and workers. It is a fact that no farmer was required to pay overtime rates in agriculture until November 5, 2020. It is also a fact that no farm employee had any legal basis for an expectation of overtime wages before November 5, 2020. There was no dispute between farmers and their workers before the State Supreme Court created the basis for conflict.
- SB 5172 does not reverse the ruling requiring a higher overtime rate for agricultural workers; it simply prevents a court from retroactively applying this complete change in the law.
- SB 5172 is needed stop farmers from being sued, penalized, bankrupted, or potentially losing their farms for following the laws of our state as they existed and were plainly understood prior to November 5, 2020.
The question is tantamount to this: If a speed limit is lowered from 50 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour, drivers are not liable for three years of speeding tickets. Neither should farmers have to pay an overtime wage increase retroactively.
To find out how to get involved in supporting this bill contact Jack: [email protected]
Posted: January 22, 2021
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