Washington Overtime Rules Could Affect Employers of H-2A Workers


Hiring H-2A workers is never easy due to all the regulations employers need to follow. But, employers in the state of Washington may soon be needing even more of these workers.

In order to hire H-2A workers, an employer needs to show that there are not enough available domestic workers. After this, the employer has a lot of paperwork to complete, and it can be complicated. Yet, it is still the main source of labor for many farms or orchards in the state.

The H-2A visa program permits foreign national workers to come to the U.S. to work as agricultural employees for a limited period of time. The A in H-2A stands for agriculture. There are other visas that can be used to employ foreign national workers, such as the H-1B and H-2B visas.

Employers that choose to hire H-2A workers must provide inbound and outbound transportation, meals and board, as well as the same wages and workers’ compensation that domestic workers receive. The same state overtime rules also apply, and there will soon be no exemption for agricultural workers. If these H-2A workers are limited to a 40 hour week, they may be less likely to want to work in the state of Washington. Generally, since these workers are here for only a limited amount of time, they prefer to work as much as possible.

H-2A workers are expected to continue to be an important source of agricultural labor in the state of Washington regardless of the high wages and expensive legal requirements because it would be difficult to get the work done without them. Fewer farms are using undocumented labor, and the number of domestic workers is decreasing. This is creating a lot of dependence on H-2A workers.

However, some small farms are unable to afford to hire H-2A workers. Some people believe it could be helpful for these small farms to create a co-op and hire guest workers through this co-op. There are some organizations that are trying to help these small farms get the labor they need, but it is a difficult situation. Nonetheless, H-2A workers are still a big part of the agricultural labor force. They are thought to make up approximately 12% of agricultural workers in the United States.

The new overtime rules in the state of Washington could make it particularly difficult for farmers in this state to obtain H-2A workers because for those workers who prefer to work as much as possible for the limited amount of time they are in the United States, the rule would make it more desirable to work in other states where this rule does not apply.