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Attorney General determines small farms don’t need to pay minimum wage

Daniel Brock

Small farms don’t have to pay seasonal workers a minimum wage.

That’s according to an opinion from Attorney General Bill Schuette. In his opinion, the AG ruled that because small farms are exempt from paying the federal minimum wage they should be exempt from the state minimum as well.

The opinion applies only to farms that see less than 500 man-hours of work per quarter, or roughly six workers over the course of a year.

Agustin Arbulu is with the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. He said the ruling will be difficult to enforce - and leaves the door open for abuse of farm workers.

“Those farms that are marginal might be inclined to say that we are a small farm and therefore we don’t have to pay minimum wages.”

Arbulu said it will be difficult for seasonal workers to hold farms that falsely identify as small accountable.

“I don’t know if a farm worker is really in a position to tell us that. It’s really the farmer, the farm, that’s in a position to provide the necessary records to indicate one way or another.”

Arbulu says the state should be ensuring that workers are being paid their fair share, not removing protections.

Arbulu says by removing minimum wage protections there could be a chilling effect on seasonal workers coming to the state.

A spokesperson for the Attorney General says the opinion simply outlines Michigan law as written.

The full statement is below:

The opinion issued outlines state law as currently written. State law can only be changed by the Legislature. I’d recommend anyone that would like to see a change in state law contact their State Representative or State Senator.