Students Allege Overworking in the Berea College Farm

By Ülvi Gitaliyev

During the 2022 Spring Break, some students stayed back and worked on the Berea College Farm. Unfortunately, some of those students now allege that they were made to work more than 40 hours in one week. On March 13th, The Berea Torch took an anonymous interview with once such worker.

Here are their claims:

“They didn’t really tell us much about the Spring Break until we had a labour meeting. He [Farm Manager Bob Harned] had us choose what weekend we would work because we had to either work the weekend before or during Spring Break. I ended up working the Sunday and Saturday during Spring Break, and then he said, you’re going to work from 8:00 until noon, and then from 1:00 until 5:00 all of the weekdays which, if you add it up, is exactly 40 hours. We’re also expected to work the weekends, but there’s a rule that you’re not allowed to work more than 40 hours in one given week. Yeah. And so later, I emailed him about it because I was like, a little bit confused. I want to make sure I was correct. And Bob said, ‘I’ve allocated 50 hours per student.’ We were expected to work up to 50 hours, which was against the rules. That was all that was said.”

We were expected to work up to 50 hours, which was against the rules.”

Anonymous Berea College Farm Labourer

“Then we get to the break. The people who work that first weekend weren’t told until the last shift of that day that they weren’t getting break pay, that it didn’t count as the break and they weren’t going to get paid as much. We were only told this after we had chosen which weekend to work. And then, as you guys probably saw, they sent out that email saying that if you work more than 40 hours a week that there was going to be financial compensation to all the students. We were all starting to get worried. One of our assistant managers – a lot of students are worried about going over 40 hours and so they went to her. It was because of her that we were able to get one shift off in the afternoon, but that was only for people who were going to work the second weekend because that’s what was counted in the Spring Break week. So that meant half of the students worked like 50 hours. I talked to one of them. I think they worked like 49 hours, and they were going to get paid less than the people who are going to work the second weekend.”

The student claimed that seven students were overworked in this fashion. When asked who knew about this incident and how it was allowed to occur, they had this to say:

“I reached out to the Labor Department, and I told them about it. When I forwarded them the email showing our 50-hour shifts, they said that they were going to take care of it. That is how we got that one shift off, but it’s still not a perfect fix. There was some effect.”

Ultrapunch, the online software that most students use to clock in and out of work, does not allow you to clock in for more than 40 hours a week. Yet, there was still a loophole that allowed students to be worked more than 40 hours a week, as explained by the anonymous student:

“Because we have a binder to clock in with if the machine doesn’t work, Bob says that we can just write it in there, and he will edit it in so that we will have those extra hours. There are always cracks in the system. So, like, even the system will let you do it and you’ll still have to work anyway. So, he’s basically getting around it to where even if the Labor Department says you physically can’t clock in these students when they’re over 40 hours, he’ll just go back in and edit it. You’re still expected to come in at work. And he’s also said before, I don’t really know what this means, but he said that when you work more than 40 hours, you get paid overtime. There’s no overtime on the farm, which makes me think that we’re not going to get paid overtime if we work more than 40 hours.”

According to the Wages and the Fair Labor Standards Act, full-time college students are allowed to work only 20 hours during when school is in session and 40 during breaks. Giving students more than 40 hours of work, without overtime pay no less, is a grave violation of the college’s own, not to mention national, labour laws.

6 responses to “Students Allege Overworking in the Berea College Farm”

  1. I don’t know where the “no overtime” statement comes from. all laborers at the college have access to overtime pay. I am a huge advocate for labor rights especially here at Berea where we are sorely lacking in labor transparency, but I would argue that the farm is one of the best places in terms of that issue. I would encourage anonymous to talk to any of the supervisors or managers about their concerns because they’re very understanding. People regularly call in with a day’s notice and they are not punished for it and no questions are asked.
    As a student farmworker who is passionate about labor reform at Berea and workers’ rights, it does make me sad to see an article on the farm. It may not be perfect in every way, but our rights and respect given to us are exceptional. I will say that those 50 hours had to be approved by the labor program when Bob submitted the Spring break contracts, so I think that if anyone should be held accountable it should be them. As far as communication about break pay, that sucks and I think management will be receptive to criticism. They are very open to making changes especially where it concerns matters of understanding and communication.

  2. Farm work is being overworked. Part of the culture. Trust me, I’m a farmers daughter.

  3. While I appreciate your apparent dedication to giving a voice to everyone who wants to bitch, you do not know anything about the farm or Bob Harned. He is a dedicated and compassionate student manager who always makes profound attempts to listen to his workers and learn from them. I know from first hand experience. No one is forced to do anything on the farm. The culture there is one of hard work but also one of positivity and upliftment. And Bob Harned is central to that. This individual should have tried to talk to him and the rest of the management staff about this issue before going to bitch to The Torch. As someone who has worked on the farm for 4 years, I know that these assertations are full of shit. The farm is a wonderful place to work and Bob Harned is a wonderful boss.

    • Idk if you don’t know how to read or something but it does say that the person went to the Labor Department about it like what? It doesn’t even say this Bob dude is a shitty manager, just he went against the rules of 40 hours 😐 nobody follows the rules 100% of the time and it doesnt make them shit scum of the earth but it does make them in the wrong for this SPECIFIC thing

  4. Yeah, agree with Tess. This article is bullshit. I haven’t worked on the farm but my best friend used to and only had good experiences with it. And I never knew her to complain about it. If anything, she told me frequently that I should apply for a job there, that it was super rewarding.

  5. Bob is one of the most understanding people I know and I would argue that he is one of the best labor supervisors on this campus. When I was working over break, my aunt passed away and he offered to let me take part of the break off AND give me the gas money to get home for the funeral. Bob has always been a comrade and from the conversations we have had he feels very strongly about workers rights. The hours we work over break are allocated by the labor office, it seems to me that this was a bad miscommunication and while it is unfortunate that this person worked over 40 hours and did not want to, they are required to be paid overtime and this could have been avoided by talking to Bob and saying “hey, I really don’t want to work more than 40 hours”. I have never had the experience of voicing my concerns to Bob and being shut down. It also sucks that the people only made normal pay instead of break pay the first weekend, but that is also completely in the hands of the labor department. I would enjoy seeing an article about how inept the labor department is, because everyone I know has had issues with them. This comment is all over the place, but just wanted to voice my opinions on this.

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