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Mass. High Court Considers Whether Farm Workers Should've Gotten Overtime Pay

John Adams Courthouse, home of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
Joe Difazio
/
WBUR
John Adams Courthouse, home of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Monday took up the definitions of farming and agriculture. 

And those two terms are central to whether some former workers should have received overtime pay at a Whatley, Massachusetts, company that produces bean sprouts.

Farm workers in the state receive a lower minimum wage than others, and are not eligible for overtime pay.

Attorney Susan Garcia Nofi represents the employees, and said they should have received overtime since they worked in the processing plant at Chang Enterprises.

"The employees in this case did not work in the growing rooms, they did not grow or harvest bean sprouts," Garcia Nofi said. "They performed post-harvest work in a factory-like setting."

But Chang's attorney, Sandra Lundy, argued the justices should go along with a lower court's interpretation of farming.

"You think of growing the crop, you think of cultivating the crop, you think of distributing the crop, and you think of -- what the judge said -- every conceivable thing in between," Lundy said.

A Massachusetts Superior Court judge earlier ruled in favor of the company.

Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.
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