By law, the Fair Labor Standards Act () doesn’t apply to fishing activities when the work takes place on the water. However, the FLSA does cover work at fish-processing plants.
That means that employees on fishing boats aren’t required to be paid overtime, while those who packaged the catch on land must.
But what about fish farms? Does the FLSA cover them? Some employees have argued that it should because they are “fishing” on land.
Now that argument has been foiled. A court has ruled that the FLSA doesn’t cover the farming aspects of fish farming because employees working at such operations are actually agricultural workers.
Recent case: Ryan Hedrick worked at a tilapia “farm” in North Carolina. Eventually, his job grew and he was running two such farms—essentially large tanks full of tilapia fish.
When Hedrick complained to his supervisor about his long hours and demanded overtime, he was terminated.
He sued, alleging he was entitled to overtime under both the FLSA and the North Carolina Wage and Hour Act.
The court disagreed. It concluded that fish farms may not fit the laws’ fishing exemptions, but they do fit agricultural exemptions. Essentially, the tilapia farm grows fish much the same way conventional farms grow livestock. The court said it made no difference that the food being grown happened to need water to grow and would in nature be fished. (Hedrick v. Southern States Cooperative, et al., No. 4:10-CV-12, ED NC, 2010)