Washington: Agricultural Workers Must be Paid Separate Piece-Rate and Hourly Rates

APPLIES TO

All Employers with WA Employees in Agricultural Industry

EFFECTIVE

May 10, 2018

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In a narrow majority, the Washington Supreme Court recently stated that agricultural employees engaged in piece-rate work must also be compensated on a separate, hourly basis for tasks outside the scope of piece-rate work.  This means that employers of agricultural employees will need to track and compensate employees at two different pay rates, depending on the work that the individual completes.

In Carranza v. Dovex Fruit Co., Dovex hired seasonal and migrant workers each year, paying employees at a piece-rate to harvest fruit.  In the course of the case, the federal court asked the Washington Supreme Court to weigh in on two questions: must agricultural employers pay piece-rate workers for time spent performing tasks outside of piece-rate picking work, and if yes, how much?

The Supreme Court confirmed that time spent on tasks or duties outside of piece-rate picking work must be compensated on an hourly basis.  The hourly rate must be paid either at the minimum wage or a contractually agreed rate, whichever is higher.  Employees may only be paid on a piece-rate basis for hours spent doing piece-rate picking work.  This decision rejects the former, longstanding practice that allowed employers to compensate employees so long as the employees’ weekly average was equal to or higher than minimum wage.

The court did not specifically define what tasks fall outside of the piece-rate scope of work, nor did it address whether Carranza applies on a retroactive basis.  It remains to be seen if the trial court will offer a definition of what qualifies as piece-rate versus non-piece-rate work.

Action Items

  1. Review compensation structures and agreements with legal counsel for compliance with this new ruling.
  2. Revise timekeeping and payroll processes to track and pay for non-piece-rate time worked by employees.
  3. Subscribers can call our HR On-Call Hotline at (888) 378-2456 for further assistance.

Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser.

© 2018 ManagEase

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