By Faith Miller
The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment has formally adopted new agricultural overtime rules that it says will make Colorado “among the top states for worker rights and protections.”
“Only six other states have any ag overtime, and only four of those have similar or stronger overtime rights,” a Nov. 11 statement from CDLE said.
Senate Bill 21-87, which Gov. Jared Polis signed into law in June, required CDLE’s Division of Labor Standards and Statistics to adopt new rules dictating overtime pay for workers on the state’s farms and ranches. Previously, the state had exempted agricultural employers from all overtime pay requirements.
The rules were adopted as part of the annual Colorado Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards Order, or COMPS Order for short. CDLE released a proposed version of the COMPS Order on Sept. 30, and revised the overtime rules after accepting feedback from the agricultural industry and worker advocates.
Under the final COMPS Order, from Nov. 1, 2022 through Dec. 31, 2023, agricultural employers must provide overtime pay at one-and-a-half times the regular rate for more than 60 hours worked in a single week.
Then, starting in 2024, “highly seasonal” ag employers must pay overtime for more than 56 hours worked in a single week during the busiest 22 weeks of the year. The rest of the year, highly seasonal employers must provide overtime pay after just 48 hours. Farms can define their 22-week peak seasons based on their individual needs.
Agricultural employers that are not highly seasonal must pay overtime after 54 hours starting in 2024, and after 48 hours beginning in 2025. However, small agricultural employers, whether seasonal or not, have a higher threshold of 56 hours for overtime pay in 2024 only. The final order defines small employers as those with an average adjusted gross income of $1 million or less over the three years preceding 2024.
In most cases, the COMPS Order requires an agricultural employee who works more than 15 consecutive hours or 15 hours in a single day to be paid an additional amount equal to one hour’s pay at the minimum wage.
The final version of the COMPS Order includes an exemption from all overtime pay requirements for farm and ranch owners; and for those employees who, by blood, adoption or marriage, are the child, sibling, spouse, parent, aunt, uncle, nephew, niece, first cousin, grandchild or grandparent of a farm or ranch owner.
The order also provides an exemption from overtime for so-called “decision-making managers” at livestock employers like dairies, cattle ranches and feedlots. Decision-making livestock managers — such as those who supervise two or more full-time employees — must be paid at least the Colorado minimum wage for each hour worked, which is $12.56 starting in 2022.
The new overtime rules do not apply to range workers who are paid at least the profession-specific minimum wage set by the state in its annual Publication And Yearly Calculation of Adjusted Labor Compensation Order, or PAY CALC Order. For 2022, that means range workers must be paid a minimum of $515 per week.
“These measures give Colorado the nation’s strongest protections against hazardously long hours,” Scott Moss, director of the Division of Labor Standards and Statistics, said in CDLE’s statement on the new overtime rules. “We adopted many good ideas from farm, ranch, and dairy businesses to accommodate their operations needs — flexible peak seasons with reduced overtime, years-long phase-in, family farmer and livestock manager exemptions, and more.”
SB-87 also required CDLE to adopt agricultural labor conditions rules, including protections from heat-related illness and injury; requirements for clean drinking water and shade; and extra safety measures for high-risk circumstances. CDLE released proposed labor conditions rules on Oct. 29 and is accepting comments until Dec. 20.
Faith Miller is a Reporter for Colorado Newsline.
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