Jose Ageo Luna Vanegas, a Mexican citizen, was employed by Signet Builders Inc., a nationwide construction company, to work in the U.S. on an H-2A visa, to execute agricultural work in the U.S. on a temporary basis. Vanegas was assigned to build livestock structures on farms in Wisconsin and Indiana. He commonly worked more than 40 hours a week, and yet Signet did not pay him extra for his overtime hours.
Vanegas filed a complaint under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and moved for conditional certification of a collective action on behalf of all Signet H-2A workers who were entirely assigned to construction work. The district court dismissed, finding that Vanegas was an agricultural worker, exempt from FLSA’s overtime protections, 29 U.S.C. 213(b)(1). A three-judge panel in August had ruled that before dismissing Vanegas’ suit against Signet, a Wisconsin federal court should have assessed whether building livestock pens for a construction firm qualified as farm work exempt from overtime pay.
However, there was an appeal in September and the Seventh Circuit reversed. Vanegas’ work falls within the FLSA agricultural exemption only if it is both “performed by a farmer or on a farm” and if it “does not amount to an independent business.” Regulations provide a fact-intensive, totality-of-the-circumstances test to resolve whether work performed on a farm is agricultural or is an independent business. Signet did not prove that the agricultural exemption applies.