Workers' Rights in the Service and Agricultural Industry

Written by Galen T. Shimoda and Jennet F. Zapata

Many employees in the agricultural industry work more than eight (8) to ten (10) hours in a day, but they do not receive overtime pay, at one-and-a-half times their hourly rate of pay. Some employers pay their employees a monthly salary, rather than per hour worked, even if they do not hold an executive, administrative or professional position, as defined. At times, employers prevent or discourage employees from taking 30-minute lunch breaks or 10-minute rest breaks. In California, every employee must be paid at least the minimum wage for each hour worked, despite how someone's pay is calculated. When you are not paid properly, you can file a claim with the Labor Commissioner's office or you can file a lawsuit in superior court, depending on the specific circumstances of a particular case.

In California, there are certain wage orders that determine how an employee should be paid. There are 17 wage orders. Each wage order applies to particular job categories. For example, Wage Order no. 4 applies to employees doing technical, professional or office work. Wage Order no. 5 applies to employees working in restaurants, hotels, and maintenance, among others. Employees that fall under Wage Order Nos. 4 and 5 must be paid overtime after working eight (8) hours in a day and/or forty (40) hours in a week. Each overtime hour worked must be paid at one-and-a-half times that employee's hourly rate. If the employee works more than 12 hours in a day or 8 hours on the 7th day in a week, then such employee is entitled to earn twice the hourly rate for such work hours. When an employee is not paid properly, he or she can seek penalties for up to 30 days of that employee's daily wages.

An employee also has the right to take lunch breaks and rest breaks. An employee should be permitted to take 30-minute lunch breaks after working 5 hours in a day, unless the total work period is no longer than six (6) hours. When the total work period is no more than six (6) hours, the employee and the employer can waive such a meal period through mutual consent. In addition, an employee should be authorized to take 10 minute rest breaks for every four (4) hours worked in a day. If an employer discourages an employee from taking lunch or meal breaks, an employee may be able to recover additional wages.

Some employees also perform agricultural work. This type of work is generally covered by wage order 14, with some exceptions. Wage order 14 applies to employees who prepare, cultivate, or treat farm land. Wage order 14 applies to employees in the dairy industry, as well as those engaged in picking, pruning or harvesting fruits and vegetables. Under wage order 14, agricultural employees are entitled to overtime after working 10 hours in a day and/or 60 hours in a week. Similarly, they are entitled to 30-minute lunch breaks and 10-minute rest breaks, after working the same number of hours as mentioned above.

If you have any questions regarding wages, contact our office.


The Shimoda Law Corp. legal articles should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. The contents of these articles are intended for general information purposes only, and you are urged to consult a lawyer concerning your own situation and any specific legal questions you may have.

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