The Colorado General Assembly passed SB21-087 during the 2021 legislative session, expanding the rights and protections afforded to farmworkers under state law. Referred to as the “farmworkers’ bill of rights,” one of the bill’s measures directed the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) to extend overtime protections to farmworkers. However, the legislation did not specify at which point farmworkers should receive overtime pay, leaving it for CDLE to establish through a rule-making process that is currently underway. Under consideration is the threshold at which Colorado’s farmworkers would be eligible for overtime pay. In general, workers who are eligible for overtime in our state receive wages worth 1.5 their wage rate for hours of work more than 40 hours per week or 12 hours per day. CDLE released a proposed rule on September 30, 2021 as part of their proposed Colorado Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards (COMPS) Order. The rule would establish different overtime thresholds for farmworkers depending on the size of their employer and the seasonality of their work.
One of the main policy questions surrounding overtime and farmworkers is the potential cost to farmers and the impact on the agricultural industry in Colorado as a whole. In this issue brief, we explore how many workers we estimate would benefit from CDLE’s proposed overtime thresholds and how that might impact farmers in Colorado. We compare this to the potential effects an overtime policy that begins after 40 hours of work, the threshold for nearly all other workers in the state.