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Supreme Court of Washington
March 17, 2015, Argued ; July 16, 2015, Filed
¶1 Yu, J. — We have been asked to answer two certified questions arising from a class action employment lawsuit pending in federal district court. ] Washington labor regulations allow employees to take short rest breaks “on the employer's time.” When applied to employees paid by the hour, that means employers must pay employees their regular hourly rate during these brief periods of inactivity. Hourly employees, in other words, remain “on the clock” during breaks under undisputed Washington law.
¶2 To answer the certified questions here, we must interpret “on the employer's time” and apply the language to agricultural employees who are not paid by the hour but rather by the piece. A piece rate is tied to the employee's output (for example, per pound of fruit harvested) and is earned only when the employee is actively producing. Thus for employees paid a piece rate, the clock stops during periods of inactivity, however brief. [***2] The central issue is whether employers can fold payment for rest breaks, when the clock is stopped, into the piece rate consistently with the mandate that breaks be paid “on the employer's time.” This phrase appears in the regulation applicable to agricultural employees:
] Every employee shall be allowed a rest period of at least ten minutes, on the employer's time, in each four-hour period of employment. For purposes of computing [**261] the minimum wage on a piecework basis, the time allotted an employee for rest periods shall be included in the number of hours for which the minimum wage must be paid.
WAC 296-131-020(2) (emphasis added).
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
183 Wn.2d 649 *; 355 P.3d 258 **; 2015 Wash. LEXIS 807 ***; 25 Wage & Hour Cas. 2d (BNA) 347; 165 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P61,612
Certification From the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington in Ana Lopez Demetrio et al., Plaintiffs, v. Sakuma Brothers Farms, Inc., Defendant.
Prior History: Paz v. Sakuma Bros. Farms, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 145526 (W.D. Wash., Oct. 10, 2014)
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Business & Corporate Compliance, Wage & Hour Laws, Scope & Definitions, Minimum Wage, Labor & Employment Law, Statutory Application, General Overview, Labor & Employment Law, Wage Payments, Regular Rate, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Appellate Jurisdiction, Certified Questions, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Administrative Law, Agency Rulemaking, Rule Application & Interpretation, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Employment Contracts, Conditions & Terms, Compensation & Benefits