Growing and Raising of Worms Is Agriculture for FLSA Purposes.

The defendant imports baby worms from Europe and feeds and grows them in “worm houses” on its property, a 750-acre tract on which corn is grown to ensure a quality feed supply for the worms.  The corn is made into silage and combined with a mixture of peat moss, lime and water, and then is fed to the worms until they are “harvested.”  The defendant did not pay its employees overtime based on the exemption from the overtime pay requirement for agricultural employees contained in 29 U.S.C. Sec. 213(b)(12) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  The trial court ruled for the defendant on the basis that the growing and raising of worms constituted “agriculture” and the plaintiffs, employees, appealed.  On appeal, the court affirmed.  The court determined that 29 U.S.C. Sec. 203(f) was broad in that it covered “the production, cultivation, growing, and harvesting of any agricultural or horticultural commodity.” “Agriculture” was defined as “farming”, which included agricultural commodities and the court determined that worms are like “cultivated commodities.”  Simply because the worms were raised for bait did not deprive them of their agricultural character.  The worms are raised and harvested like an ag commodity.  Thus, the defendant was not required to pay overtime wages to its employees as they were agricultural employees.  Barks, et al. v. Silver Bait, LLC, No. 15-1575, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 17310 (6th Cir. Oct. 2, 2015).     

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