Brief: Piece-rate workers should be paid for required non-picking work
OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a “friend of the court” brief arguing that agricultural workers who are paid on a “piece-rate” basis by what they pick are also entitled to compensation for time they spend on other aspects of their jobs.
In the amicus brief, filed yesterday in a case before the Washington State Supreme Court, Ferguson argues that piece-rate workers deserve compensation for work-related activities other than picking. Those activities include traveling between orchards, attending meetings and trainings, or transporting or storing equipment.
“Farmworkers do backbreaking work, and they deserve to be compensated for all of the time they spend working,” Ferguson said.
The case, Carranza and Martinez v. Dovex Fruit Company, centers around Dovex’s practice of “workweek averaging.”
Dovex uses a software program that divides an employee’s weekly piece-rate wages by the total number of hours they worked, and compares that average hourly wage to the state’s minimum wage. If the “workweek average” wage is below the state’s hourly minimum wage, Dovex augments that worker’s wages to bring their average up to minimum wage. Alternatively, workers whose averaged piece-rate pay exceeds the minimum wage receive no additional pay.
In the brief, Ferguson argues that the state’s minimum wage law is intended to require separate compensation for each hour of work by agricultural workers. In addition to their piece-rate pay, agricultural workers should also be compensated separately for each hour of non-picking work, Ferguson contends.
As of 2015, there were nearly 100,000 agricultural workers in Washington state working on about 7.3 million acres statewide. Many of those workers are paid on a piece-rate basis.
Assistant Attorney General Julian Beattie authored the brief for the Attorney General’s Office.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Interim Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; firstname.lastname@example.org