Business Law

Business Law Annual Review 2017

Agribusiness Committee 2016 Year In Review

Lauren Layne, Mark Bateman, Elise O’Brien, and Kari Fisher

The Phase-In Overtime for Agricultural Workers Act of 2016, Assemb. B. 1066, 2015-2016 Reg. Sess. (Gonzalez, D., San Diego)—The Phase-In Overtime for Agricultural Workers Act of 2016 will end the straight-time limit of ten hours per workday for agricultural employees in California that has applied since 1976. Starting in 2019 and annually thereafter for several years, lower daily and new weekly overtime thresholds will be phased in, ultimately covering agricultural employees by the same overtime premium compensation provisions as now cover non-exempt non-agricultural employees. In addition, the bill imposes on agricultural employers the same prohibition against causing their employees to work more than six days in seven that has applied for decades to non-agricultural employers. The California Supreme Court is now pondering in Mendoza v. Nordstrom (No. S224611) the meaning of "cause" under the statute, Labor Code section 552. Does it mean force, coerce, pressure, schedule, encourage, reward, permit, or something else?

Surface Water Rights—The State Water Resources Control Board has embarked upon a multi-phase effort to set unimpaired flow criteria for the protection of beneficial uses of waters in the entire Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed, which could result in unimpaired flow requirements as high as 40% (or more) in the region’s major river systems. This could result in broad restrictions on the exercise of water rights, and fallowing of large amounts of Central Valley agriculture.

Federal Water Resources Legislation—President Obama signed into law last year a water development initiative passed by Congress (the "WIIN Act"), potentially improving management of water resources in response to drought and providing resources for certain water projects. Separately, a House bill has been introduced (115th Cong. (2017) (Valadao)), which contains provisions that would further change management of California water resources in response to drought and species restrictions.

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