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Employment Laws Update: Understanding these five issues will ensure your business’ labor force is within federal compliance

A strong workforce — in the vineyard, cellar and tasting room — is one of the most important aspects of running a winery. Workers help provide customers with a unique experience, including an outstanding product and first-rate service. But labor and employment issues can cause headaches and liabilities for an unsuspecting winery owner. Employment laws are constantly changing, both at the federal level and in heavily regulated states like California. Wine industry businesses should consider the following five common issues to decide whether to seek additional guidance on current workplace regulations.


Many wineries assume their managers and various salaried employees are exempt from overtime requirements, but that isn’t necessarily true. Determining if an employee is exempt isn’t as simple as asking whether he or she is “salaried” or “hourly.” If an employer is classifying employees as exempt, it must make sure the employees’ job duties and salary levels actually qualify for the “white collar” exemption claimed under federal and state law. For example, to qualify for the administrative exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the worker must meet certain salary requirements, perform office or non-manual work directly related to management or general business operations, and exercise discretion and independent judgment with respect to significant matters.

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