Continuing a look back at some “basics” posts you might have missed, back in 2009, I tackled an exemption that may be overlooked when it comes to employment laws.
Connecticut has a proud history of farms. Many, like Lyman Orchards, have been passed down for many generations. (And if you’ve never visited Lyman Orchards, don’t miss out on their Corn Maze and apple orchards. I visited it recently and highly recommend stopping by.)
For many of these farms, the growing season is short, which is why some of the wage & hour rules for farms are a bit different. Indeed, overtime rules in Connecticut specifically do not apply to “agricultural” employees. (Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 31-76i(k) is the specific provision if you’re looking for it.)
But what exactly is “agriculture”?
Turns out, it’s probably much broader than you think. In fact, you have to look elsewhere in the statutes for thatdefinition. It is found in the very first statute, Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-1(q), which states, in part:
[T]he words “agriculture” and “farming” shall include cultivation of the soil, dairying, forestry, raising or harvesting any agricultural or horticultural commodity, including the raising, shearing, feeding, caring for, training and management of livestock, including horses, bees, poultry, fur-bearing animals and wildlife, and the raising or harvesting of oysters, clams, mussels, other molluscan shellfish or fish; the operation, management, conservation, improvement or maintenance of a farm and its buildings, tools and equipment, or salvaging timber or cleared land of brush or other debris left by a storm, as an incident to such farming operations; the production or harvesting of maple syrup or maple sugar, or any agricultural commodity, including lumber, as an incident to ordinary farming operations or the harvesting of mushrooms, the hatching of poultry, or the construction, operation or maintenance of ditches, canals, reservoirs or waterways used exclusively for farming purposes; handling, planting, drying, packing, packaging, processing, freezing, grading, storing or delivering to storage or to market, or to a carrier for transportation to market, or for direct sale any agricultural or horticultural commodity as an incident to ordinary farming operations, or, in the case of fruits and vegetables, as an incident to the preparation of such fruits or vegetables for market or for direct sale.
So, under this broad definition, everyone from horse breeders, to maple sugar houses (you know about places like the Lamothe Sugar House, right?) to those who freeze blueberries from local farms, are exempt from paying workers overtime.
Thus, whenever agriculture is implicated in your business, be sure to see if the overtime rules actually apply to your workers.