FLSA Overtime Exemption for Agricultural Employees Broad Enough to Cover Worm Farmers

Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor

October 5, 2015

Agricultural employees are exempt from federal overtime requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

As a new appellate court ruling illustrates, the FLSA's definition of agriculture can include not just the raising of traditional livestock like cows and chickens, but also less common animals like worms.

Although farming worms is not among the activities listed in the FLSA statute, "there is little to distinguish [it from covered activities] other than the unfamiliarity of worm farming," the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals held in Barks v. Silver Bait, LLC, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 17310 (6th Cir. 2015).

Like a hog farmer or a cattle rancher, the defendant in the case, Silver Bait, LLC, raises animals for sale as a commodity. While worms are not a traditional farm animal, "the meaning of farming is not frozen in time ... and there is nothing in the statute to suggest that the exemption should be circumscribed by tradition," the 6th Circuit noted.

Employers that operate in the 6th Circuit, which covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, will find in the Barks ruling an employer-friendly precedent for a broad interpretation of the FLSA's agricultural exemption.