Washington Supreme Court Rules Against Ag Overtime Exemption
In a 5-4 ruling Thursday, the Washington Supreme Court said farmworkers should receive overtime pay. The decision eliminates an exemption from the state’s minimum wage law the farm community has used for decades.
According to the Capital Press, one of the majority opinion judges said he would look favorably on applying the decision retroactively, allowing farmworkers to sue for back pay. Columbia Legal Services argued the case, brought up by two workers against a Yakima Valley dairy, in front of the state Supreme Court in October 2019.
With Thursday’s ruling, Washington becomes the second state to grant farmworkers time-and-a-half pay once they’ve worked past 40 hours. California plans to phase in their overtime pay plan by 2025.
In a statement Thursday, the Washington state Dairy Federation said it was disappointed in the ruling, saying ," while we believe the court erred in its opinion, this case involves a state constitutional question, and there is no venue to appeal it beyond the state Supreme Court." The organization added attorneys are looking at options the Ag community may have going forward.
The Federation’s advice right now is for all farmers to begin paying workers time-and-a-half overtime immediately.
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