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WORK WEEKS UPHELD BY CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT

Monday, the California Supreme court voted 7-0 in favor of the seven days in the same  work week interpretation.  This means that, if you define your work week, as long as an employee has one day off in that workweek, they are not eligible for premium ovcr-time payments.  They rejected the interpretation that employees should only work 6 days and affirmed the wording that employees may only work 6 days in the same work week.

Here is how it works.  If your work week is Monday through Sunday, and the employee works every day in the week, the hours they work on Sunday would be subject to the 7th day penalty where the first 8 hours are at time and a half and all hours after the 8th hour are double time.  However, if an employee worked Wednesday to the following Wednesday, there is no violation of the seven day rule because they had at least one day off in each work week as defined.

This is why it is so important to establish and notify your employees of your work week in your employee handbook and other documents.  It does not have to align with paydays, but it is preferable.  Remember, if you pay twice a month, it is possible that a payday falls in the middle of a pay period and you may miss an employee working through the seven day rule because part falls in 2 different pay periods.  You are still responsible for paying the penalty overtime if this happens.  You would apply it in the pay period where the seventh day was worked.

Overall, this is a victory for employers who have been following these rules as written for many years.  To change them now would have been a huge hit to employers across California.  Having one day off a work week is good for employer and employee, but a new law of 1 day off in any seven days could be hard to adjust.  This is especially true of businesses such as restaurants where you have high turnover, people calling in sick and then you have to ask another employee to come in to cover a shift.

So, rejoice, the courts did the right thing.  The best way to keep the government out of these things is to pay properly, follow the law and make sure your competition is doing the same.

Final Thoughts on 2016 and a Caution to Legislators and Employers for 2017

I will begin this by saying that some of this article is focused on California, while much can be applicable to the rest of the United States.  The San Joaquin Valley is a microcosm of what has taken place across this country.  The rural, farming and agriculture areas of this country are tired of being ignored.   And finally, they stood up in November and got the attention of the people that think that life is only lived in big cities.

California politicians are very good at double speak.  They say they are supportive of Agriculture, but none of them every actually come to the Valley to talk to business owners.  On the rare occasion they do come to the Valley it is to talk to the workers or to point at a High Speed Rail train that is not going to do anything for people here.

The fact is, California, and many State governments across the country, would prefer if Agriculture would just go away.  They would much rather we were all working in a state full of Silicone Valley businesses.  They are cleaner, there would be no fight over water, and we could just ignore it altogether.  In the past election, we did not get visits by Hillary (Trump dropped in quickly) and Kamala Harris (the new Senator) didn’t bother with and knows nothing about this side of California.  The Governor has only been to Fresno a few times in 6 years and that is never to learn about real issues (he knows it all I guess).

For the rest of the country, the story is similar.  President Obama flew over the rest of the US and only visited a few coastal states in 8 years in office.  He came to California almost monthly to San Francisco or Los Angeles to attend a fund raiser, but on the ONE occasion that he came to the valley to discuss the drought, he got off the plane, went to a dirt field for about 1 hour and then flew out because he had a golf date in Southern California (where they had water to make beautiful greens for his putting).  We never saw a thing done about the drought after that and still have not until last week when a bill (0pposed by outgoing Senator Barbara Boxer) was signed by the President to help us build dams.  This was not because of any work done by the President, but by the work of our Representatives from the Valley that finally got enough support from  enough people in both parties to get this to the President despite Barbara Boxer.

One of the most telling examples of how Legislators view business owners is how they write regulations.  Almost all regulations start with the assumption that most employers are bad.  In fact, many times it is actually written into the introduction and states that this bill must be passed to protect the workers, etc.  The reality is that most employers work very hard with their employees to create a family atmosphere.  The regulations get in the way of much of this.  Every time the government mandates a benefit that many people are already doing for their employees, they add cumbersome requirements, and many pages of fines and penalties if you do not do it exactly right.  In a more practical world, doing your best should count for something, but not according to our Legislators.  So, every time they add a benefit, many employers remove another benefit so they can afford the one the government wants.  There is only one pot of money, but Legislators think employers can just invent more money like Congress does and it just isn’t the case.

If there is one takeaway from the recent Presidential elections is that middle-America and rural areas are tired of being ignored or shoved aside by our representatives.  If you don’t visit and really listen to their issues, you run the chance of being replaced.  Not all issues affecting business and employees can be handled by looking out the window in Los Angeles or Sacramento or Washington, D.C.  I hope they pay attention or 2018 could be a very turbulent year as well.

BUT THERE IS A RESPONSIBILITY OF THE OWNER\EMPLOYER AS WELL:

In 1999, in California, Governor Gray Davis signed the labor bills establishing daily as well as weekly overtime rules.  It also established a 30 minute employee meal with stern regulations.  Here we are 17 years later and there are still a number of employers who ignore, or do not know of these laws, or simply choose to go their own way.  This affects all of us.  When an employer does not follow the simple laws and refuses to do things like installing a time clock and paying people for the hours they work, they give every employer a black eye and give every Legislator an easy excuse to add new laws and regulations.  In other words, a few stubborn bad employers are making business hard for everyone else.  Instead of just complaining about the State or the Federal government, if  you know an employer that is not following the law, talk to them and let them know they are a big part of the problem.

The easiest way to pay people with the least amount of work on your part is to pay people exactly what they work based on a time clock.  Anything else you are doing is why we keep getting more “wage theft” headlines.  Let’s all resolve in 2017 to pay people for what they work and hold them accountable for the job.  Spend your hard time enforcing your rules instead of working hard to explain a poor payroll practice.  With minimum wages going up and other regulations coming to many States, 2017 is a good year to get on board the right train.  HR Mobile Services, Inc. is there to help you do it, but you have to follow the program to make it successful.

Have a Happy and Prosperous New Year!!!

CALIFORNIA DEFEATS OVERTIME BILL FOR AGRICULTURE AGAIN…..BUT…..

On Friday, there was a heated debate in Sacramento regarding a bill that would remove the exemptions for agriculture workers and bring them into the 8 hour day and 40 hour workweek.

First, a little history:

The Federal Government exempted agriculture workers back in the 1940’s from the FLSA and left the regulation of overtime to the States if they wanted to improve on this standard.  NO OTHER STATE DID…..EXCEPT CALIFORNIA.  In 1976 Jerry Brown (the first time as Governor), signed bills that established the 10 hour day and 60 hour work-week.  This was included in the Wage Orders that were established about 2001, specifically, Wage Order 14 with some agriculture work being moved to the 8/40 schedule with wage orders 8 and 13.

In 2010 and again in 2011, they tried to change the rules to 8/40 but it was defeated again with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger stating:

“Unfortunately, this measure, while well-intended, will not
improve the lives of California’s agricultural workers and
instead will result in additional burdens on California
businesses, increased unemployment, and lower wages.  In order
to remain competitive against other states that do not have such
wage requirements, businesses will simply avoid paying overtime.
Instead of working 10-hour days, multiple crews will be hired
to work shorter shifts, resulting in lower take home pay for all
workers.  Businesses trying to compete under the new wage rules
may become unprofitable and go out of business, resulting in
further damage to our already fragile economy.”

So again on Friday, we had the arguments for and against.  3  pro-8/40 Assembly members felt it was important to quote Bible Scripture.  While interesting, this is not really the argument.  There were supporters from the usual groups, UFW, Labor leaders on one side and Agriculture employers on the other.  What was missing was those who really represent the interests of the employee.

Right now, a dairy worker generally works 60 hours a week, 10 hours a day.  If you pass this law, that employee will be working 40 hours a week, or 8 hours per day (5 days a week).  Since employers will not want to pay overtime, they will do one of 3 things.  They will change from two 10-hour shifts a day, to 3 8-hour shifts per day.  Or, they will reduce the size of their herds so they can be handled in 8 hours and this will further reduce the number of employees needed.  Finally, they can just close up and go to one of the other 49 states that want to work with agricultural employers.

When you reduce the worker’s income by 20 hours per week, you are not doing them a favor.  In fact, you may be creating a much worse situation.  In order to make up for the lost income (can you afford to lose $200 + per week in your pay?) the employee will have to look for a second income.  This means working at another dairy 2 days a week or working a second shift at another dairy.  This increases the likelihood of injuries due to being over tired, less time with family and most likely they will not have a day off at all.  Right now they get one or two days off a week, but if they have a second job, that will most likely go away.  YOU ARE NOT HELPING A PERSON WHEN YOU REDUCE THEIR HOURS, INCOME AND DAYS OFF.

Though well intentioned, this shows a real lack of understanding of the actual on the ground situation.  Typical of State Legislators, they sit in their Sacramento office and listen to advocates instead of getting their shoes dirty and talking to the actual people involved.  I would extend an invitation to any State Legislator to come and spend a day in our office to see the impact of some of their legislations.  I can guarantee there are at least 10 things that they do not know exist or the impact it has on employers and employees, and the environment.

Meanwhile, contact your representatives directly, not through an organization, and point out to them the tremendous loss to employees if this legislation goes through.  They won’t listen to your problems, but they may listen if you are discussing your employee’s concerns.

UFW IS SANCTIONED WATCHDOG FOR CAL\OSHA

An settlement was reached between the families of 2 farmworkers who have had heat-related deaths over the past couple of years.  The UFW was also engaged in suing the State of California for not aggressively pursuing violators of the heat-illness regulations.

Since those deaths, Cal\OSHA has raised the standards again as we saw with this year’s roll-out of the program in May.  However, that was not enough.  So, in reaching a resolution to the lawsuits, Cal\OSHA has agreed to sanction the UFW as an official Watchdog.  Also, they have agreed to aggressively increase the inspection and overview of agriculture workers in the State over the next few months.

What this means to every farm and ranch owner is that  you better go back and review your training and if you are AT ANY POINT not in compliance, you should fix it now or face a real possibility of stiff fines and further inspections.  It may also be time to watch your neighbors as well.  When they are not in compliance, that draws attention to all locations around them.  With UFW on board, they are just looking for a good reason to get onto your property and organize your workers.  With the new rules regarding organizing meetings set down by the NLRB and our generous State officials, it could be a very long and difficult Summer.

UPDATE

The California Farm Labor Contractor’s Association sent out the following statement to it’s members:

Beware of Strangers – Control Access to Fields!

Dear CFLCA Members and Others:

Most of you are aware that Cal OSHA recently settled an old lawsuit filed by UFW charging inadequate enforcement of the Heat Illness Prevention standard. That settlement included a memorandum of understanding in which Cal OSHA is required to investigate any reports by UFW staff of non-compliance found among agricultural employers. UFW is now sending representatives to fields under the guise of educational outreach to workers on heat illness prevention. They have been active in the Fresno region. Employers are advised that UFW representatives have NO RIGHT to enter your fields, unless they have filed their Notice of Intent and if access has been granted by the ALRB. The grower would have to receive a copy of the notice. Without such notice, UFW representatives should be asked to immediately leave your premises. Click here for a copy of the questionnaire UFW reps are asking employees to complete. It seeks information regarding employer compliance with the standard. It might be used as evidence against the employer for a violation of the rules. Please train all workers to tell any visitors they must wait to talk to the supervisor. And train all supervisors to check all visitors for identification. For Cal OSHA and other enforcement agencies, the supervisor should advise the government agent to wait while the supervisor calls the designated person (safety/HR/Employer) authorized to allow visitor access to the field. All non-authorized visitors, including UFW and CRLA representatives should be respectfully directed to leave the private property.

More comments from HR Mobile Services, Inc.:

Your best defense is good compliance.  Make sure you have plenty of COOL water available, with disposable cups if you use Igloos.  Make sure you have someone refilling the buckets regularly and that they have ice to keep it cool. You must have adequate shade and seating for your employees who are outside and under HIGH HEAT situations.  You must institute the “buddy system”, your supervisors need to monitor all employees hourly, and more frequent breaks are needed.  Employees are allowed cool-down periods also.  New employees must be monitored and oriented to the high heat for their first 2 weeks at work, to allow them to adapt.

If you have any questions, you may contact your loss prevention specialist at HR Mobile Services, Inc.

To Do the Right Thing

Life has a way of presenting moral and ethical challenges to us at the most interesting times in our lives.  The other day, I was in the parking lot of a restaurant when I saw a wallet on the ground.  I picked it up and I opened it to see if there was some ID inside.  The first thing I saw was a wad of $100 bills!!  There was well over $1,000 in there.  I shut it quickly and went inside the restaurant to turn it over to the management.

Now, understand, I am not telling this story because I want a reward or accolades, but to point out something we should all think about. Most of us would pause for a moment and contemplate keeping the money, including myself for less than a second.  Then I thought about the person.  Who would carry that kind of cash?  Most likely, a person who could ill-afford to lose it.  It may be their rent money or money to purchase a much needed car or whatever.  The point is, it wasn’t my money;  I did nothing to earn it.

And that is my real point.  So many people today feel they deserve payment just because they exist, not because they have truly  earned the money.  Our forefathers understood the value of earning what you had and keeping it for the next generation to build on.  When our society is ruled by people who feel they must be given “what is theirs” we have failed.  When we elect leaders based on what they will give us rather than how they will encourage us to be our best and ensure there is a reward at the end of the day for that effort, then we have failed.

Let’s hope we never get to that point.