Washington Workplace Rules: 2023 Changes and Advice for Ag HR Professionals

With 2023 right around the corner, HR Departments across the ag industry are preparing for their end-of-year processes: W2s, internal audits, and compliance changes require intense focus to ensure the current year ends without a hitch while preparing for upcoming changes in 2023.

Although sometimes it can feel like a mountain of tasks ahead of you, you are not alone in this journey. Associations like the Washington State Tree Fruit Association (WSTFA) are hosting events to help educate and guide you through the multitude of changes. One of the upcoming sessions is at the WSTFA’s annual meeting and NW Hort Expo. Their session, Workplace Rules: What’s New, What’s Coming, and How to Adapt, will specifically cover upcoming changes ag professionals should be aware of. 


We had a conversation with panel member Chafeka Abdellatif, Director of Human Resources at Domex Superfresh Growers, on the top three most significant changes coming in 2023, resources, and advice for other HR professionals in ag. 


New workplace rules in Washington: What you need to know

1 - Overtime Rules

“Looking ahead, [HR Professionals] should already be familiar with the ag overtime rules that just came into effect last year. But then they should also be looking at the thresholds; [...] it's a “phase in” [process]. This year, it started with 55 hours; anything over 55 hours [is] overtime, but then looking at next year, it's 48. [HR professionals] should really be focusing on that 48 hours and strategies on how to get through that without triggering a lot of overtime.” 

[HR professionals] should really be focusing on that 48 hours and strategies on how to get through that without triggering a lot of overtime.

Overtime pay must be at least 1.5 times the employee’s regular hourly rate. Other overtime rates, like double time pay are not required under Washington state law, with the exception of certain public works projects. 

2 - WA Cares Fund

If you employ H-2A farmworkers, then changes regarding the WA Cares Fund are incredibly important to note. WA Cares Fund provides a first-of-its-kind fund for employees to pay into during their working years that they can then access later in retirement when needing long-term care. However, there is a group that will need to apply to be exempt from these withholdings—H-2As.

Chafeka Abdellatif, Director of Human Resources at Kershaw Companies—umbrella for Domex Superfresh Growers
Helping to file for exemptions, I think, is going to be a big part.”

“Helping to file for exemptions, I think, is going to be a big part. And just gearing the regular workforce up to understanding the Cares Act itself.”

“There was supposed to have been a provision in there that would exclude nonimmigrant visa holders (H-2A visas and non-immigrant visa holders), but the law passed, so the revisions passed, and they didn't put that exclusion in there.” 

“And so it feels really bad when you have a workforce of about 400 H-2A workers and they're paying into a system that they essentially (unless they ever change their status), can never use, and so helping them navigate how to file for exemptions is going to be a big thing that I think employers should try to focus on.”

Protip: You can use the Ganaz HR Digital Onboarding Tool to automatically share information about applying for exemption as part of your H-2A hiring packet. Ganaz Workforce Communication can help distribute the online exemption link to help expedite the process for your H-2A workforce as well!

3 - Pay Transparency

“Washington State kind of got ahead of pay laws a few years back, and they made some rules: when you're interviewing people, you can't ask for pay, and they're just kind of really building on those rules to get to a place where there is more equal pay between [different groups], so that there's less pay discrepancies.”

HR professionals should be aware of the pay rules when it comes to posting jobs.

“HR professionals should be aware of the pay rules when it comes to posting jobs. Starting with pay transparency in January [2023], whenever a job is posted, it needs to have the entire pay scale of that job. So say, for example, [Crew Supervisor] position, it can have the minimum salary and the top salary that we're currently paying for that role, and it needs to be disclosed.”

Chafeka noted that “in addition to making sure that you put the entire pay scale in the ad, you also have to put any of the benefits offered.”

How to Best Communicate Changes to Farmworkers


“We do multiple methods of communication for all of our multiple companies. We can send a lot of information out via email, but we do have a lot of our workers that don't have computers, so we do some text messaging.” 

“For the most part, “we simply keep it old school; we do check attachments to get information out. [and] a lot of tailgate meetings. So when it comes to the Washington Cares Act, that’ll be a check attachment.” 


Pro Tip: Spreading information old school can be cumbersome and time-consuming without the right tools. Here are a couple hacks of our own we recommend: 

  1. Send mass SMS texts or WhatsApp alert messages to your employees regarding upcoming changes through the Ganaz Workforce Communication tool. You can also use this feature to send pre-scheduled messages, like tailgate meeting reminders or policy changes, all to specific groups.

  2. Eliminate printing and distributing paper paychecks and paystubs with the Ganaz payroll card program. Save money and time with a card built specifically for agriculture, keeping both ag employers and farmworkers top-of-mind.

How Ag HR Professionals Can Adapt

Stay Informed

Chafeka suggests the most important thing when dealing with constant changes is always keeping an ear to the ground.

“Working with intra-departments [like IT] to figure out what's the best way to do something [is helpful]. But then, more importantly, [..] just stay informed. Getting listservs [newsletters] or participating in the NW Hort - Washington State Fruit Tree Association and making sure you get all the up-to-date information is going to be [...] one of the best things that you can do to continually adapt.”

Use Technology

“When I started here in 2018, there was a whole wall of binders. And the binders were our I-9s, literally a whole wall, like I can’t even exaggerate it. We’re slowly shredding it [...] and so I'm down to like one cabinet, and it feels so good - ultimately, that's only because of technology.” 

I would feel like almost our job is impossible without [technology]

“I would feel like almost our job is impossible without [technology], especially with the compliance that we have to follow. [...] And so what helps you follow policy and be compliant is relying on tech, so electronic hiring, saving everything via online, it's just it's so helpful, and it's so important.”

Pro Tip: Start hiring digitally and saving new hire documents like I-9s and W-4s for compliance on the cloud with Ganaz’s HR Digital Onboarding tool; even issue and activate payroll cards effortlessly for bankless employees, including H-2As.

Best Hacks for Ag HR Professionals

Mailing Lists

“Best hacks would be making sure that you're on every list there is possible. So this is from the EEOC, the Department of Labor, and L&I. Really, you need the up-to-date information, and so the best way to get it, again, is directly from the source.”

I would say [listservs are] kind of like your best friend as far as getting new information as quickly as possible.

“Even like Homeland Security, we deal with I-9s in HR - [it’s] currently under review and are supposed to be changing here soon. [...] What better place to get that than the Department of Homeland Security? Right. So making sure you're on that listserv, too.”

“I would say [listservs are] kind of like your best friend as far as getting new information as quickly as possible.”


“Be sure that if you’re going to Google stuff, that you use reputable sites and don't just take whatever [you] search at face value. Make sure that you get on listserves from actual governmental agencies. [...] So that you're getting information directly from the source, the people releasing the rules and creating the policy.”

“A big component of my job is being able to see new policy, read it, understand it, to fight for it, and then basically translate it into what it looks like on paper. Especially with H-2A rulemaking, the heat rules, the new smoke rules that are still in the mix, those are all coming through L&I, and then the H-2A rules are coming through the Department of Labor. And so basically being a part of the stakeholder meetings that they conduct, listening to any information that comes out, deciphering it, but then also reading [the releases].” 

Chafeka also understands that not every farm has the time to sit down and read 100-page policies. For growers who are looking for an easy way to get updates, Chafeka says joining organizations can help you gather information fast:

“We do get some good synthesized information from organizations like NW Horticultural Council. They keep someone on their employ who is all about governmental releases and understanding [them].”

Chafeka advises organizations like these can help you focus on the important information.

“We have some great people; NW Hort Kate Tynan is amazing, Jon DeVaney of the Washington State Tree Fruit Association (WSTFA), they're both really good at getting out information very quickly from when policy is released and basically synthesizing it and saying, this is the new policy, this is what it means and this is what it means for you, and what you need to do now.” 

We do get some good synthesized information from organizations like NW Horticultural Council.

“So really making sure that you're a part of those agencies. Locally [...] we have the Washington Growers League, which is headed by Mike Gempler; they do a great job of getting information and sending it out.”

“Also, aside from the industry places that we go to, we're a member of NCAE, which is the National Council of Agricultural Employers, and so they're more of the national stuff. They actually have an annual labor forum in Vegas; they do an amazing job of really covering the changes, more particularly with the H-2A program, but also all things ag.” 

Local Network

Chafeka’s biggest hack for HR professionals in ag is to start connecting to others in the industry and form lasting bonds. 

“A best hack for me personally has been creating a local network. I've reached out to some HR Representatives at other large companies like Domex Superfresh Growers, and so we try to meet quarterly and just kind of touch base like, hey, what's going on?”

“We talk about trends that we're seeing within the H-2A program or the way applications are happening with H-2A or just how we’re working on new rules. A couple of years ago, we had some long discussions on COVID and like, what are you guys doing? This is what we're trying to do.

Having that local network where we’re dealing with the same local issue really is extremely helpful.

“Having that local network where we're dealing with the same local issue really is extremely helpful. But I think sometimes people are hesitant to create that because maybe it's a confidence thing, or maybe it's a time thing, or maybe it's a company that doesn't want to share anything - you get a lot of that in the small ag industry.”

“But really, I think that HR people kind of stand-alone, right? And really, their obligation is to represent the employee and the employer. And so with that, kind of separate a little bit and have a really good network.”

It can be something as simple as reaching out, checking if there are beds available in the area because a contract ran out, or forming a joint coalition to amplify issues facing multiple growers. 

“[In one instance,] we were being pushed to put certain things in our contract where we know the regulations, and it's like, hey, should we push back? We need to push back collectively, or let's bring this to the attention of NCAE, and then we'll collectively send emails.”

Pro Tip: Join the HR Professionals in Agriculture group on LinkedIn. This is a group of HR Professionals across the country connecting over similar issues and providing community support. 

Overall Advice for Any Ag HR Professional

Put energy into creating a great network


“In general, [my advice would be] that network thing; put energy into creating a great network. Increase your current network because, in the long run, those are the people that you're going to be able to share your frustrations with and even share your celebrations with [...] you can fight rules together, and then, in niche communities like ag [...] you share so much, and you realize that there's other people that are having the same frustrations as you and so it's probably one of the best things that a professional can do, also for personal growth, too.” 


Don’t be afraid to hire someone better than you

“One other thing I would say is when hiring or helping departments hire [...] one of the things that I tell people is don't be afraid to hire someone better than you. It was something that my boss had told me when I actually started here. I think it's something that people need to hear. I know some people kind of have a hard time with that, or they feel like, yeah, maybe that's not better for me in the long run. But ultimately, you should always be trying to replace yourself, right?” 

“Don't be afraid to hire better because I think that in the long run, it makes the whole team stronger. And I try to tell that to every department. Whether they heed my advice or not is up to them. But you can really see strong departments for people who actually do take that advice, and I think that's important to share.”

Staying On Top of the Ever-Changing HR Compliance Landscape

Chafeka brings together a lot of key insight into how to stay on top of the ever-changing landscape that is HR compliance in the ag industry. In short:

  • Subscribe to newsletters with local government organizations and industry associations.

  • Join industry organizations

  • Attend key industry conferences

  • Grow your network

  • Use technology, like Ganaz, to help stay compliant

Interested in learning more from industry leaders on how to position yourself for the new year? Along with others, Chafeka will be part of a panel sharing impactful information like this and more in the session on Workplace Rules: What’s New, What’s Coming, and how to Adapt at the Washington State Tree Fruit Association Annual Meeting in Wenatchee, WA.

About Washington State Fruit Tree Association (WSFTA)

The WSTFA’s mission is to add value to all segments of the tree fruit industry through educational programs and conferences, statistics to enable growers and packers to plan for market opportunities, and engagement in Washington State government affairs to help address the market uncertainty driven by government policy.

The Washington State Tree Fruit Association (WSTFA) hosts an Annual Meeting and NW Hort Expo at the Wenatchee Convention Convention Center in Wenatchee, WA in December. The Annual Meeting will continue the tradition of hosting the largest tree fruit educational gathering in the country.

The three day event serves as a forum to discuss the latest trends and hot topics within the tree fruit industry.

About Superfresh Growers

They live by their slogan, “We are the Force Behind Fresh®.” Their people, from the orchards to the loading docks, are the connected force behind innovation, flavor, and quality. They strive to deliver flavorful, high quality apples, pears, cherries, apricots, blueberries, and kiwi berries to families around the world.