June 17, 2021

The FLSA Agricultural Exemption

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals (Alabama, Florida and Georgia), in deciding Ramirez v. Statewide Harvesting & Hauling, LLC (May 21, 2021), finds under certain circumstances, work performed by farm laborers that is separate from their usual agricultural activities, (e.g., “necessities trips”) may entitle them to overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) when they work more than 40 hours per week.

As part of its contractual and legal obligations, Statewide provided its workers with kitchen facilities and transportation to grocery stores and banks (i.e., necessity trips). These necessity trips, provided by Statewide’s field supervisors, took place away from farming operations on a weekly basis and lasted approximately four hours. Statewide, believing such work to fall under the agricultural exemption of the FLSA, failed to pay earned overtime.[1]

The Court’s analysis focused on the idea that the necessity trips provided by the field supervisors did not meet the FLSA exemption because it found the work was not associated with any particular farm owned by Statewide and was “separate from the agricultural activities” performed “by a farmer or on a farm.” Therefore, any necessity trips that resulted in the field supervisors working more than 40 hours per week, entitled them to overtime pay.

The broader implications of Ramirez, for all employers subject to the FLSA, warrant a review of current wage/hour practices regarding work – such as necessity trips – performed by farm personnel in connection with, but not directly related to, work performed on a farm. This would include activities performed outside of the geographical area that constitutes a farm (e.g., away from farms/fields being harvested or work (not associated with field transportation) beginning/ending at workers’ off-site housing facilities.).

Growers seeking further information about the Ramirez case or the FLSA agricultural exemption, should contact Western Growers.

[1] The agricultural exemption to the FLSA applies to “any employee employed in agriculture” who performs work in connection with: 1) the cultivation and tillage of the soil, dairying, the production, cultivation, growing, and harvesting of any agricultural or horticultural commodities…the raising of livestock, bees, fur-bearing animals, or poultry; or primary farming activities such as work 2) performed by a farmer or on a farm as an incident to or in conjunction with farming operations….”