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Two associations are asking tree fruit growers to help defend a Washington State Supreme Court case regarding extra pay for piece-rate worker rest breaks. Read the request below from The Washington Farm Labor Association and Washington State Tree Fruit Association. To learn more about this case, read Sara Wixson’s column, “Supreme Court to address piece-rate breaks.”

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From the release on January 5, 2014.

New Disclosures for Piece Rate Workers  

If you pay piece rate, this case is vital to you! We hope that every grower takes the opportunity to weigh in by contributing to this important brief.

CALL TO ACTION

PROBLEM:
Growers who use piece rate compensation systems should disclose that the piece rate compensation is intended to cover rest breaks and other tasks associated with the piece rate job. This disclosure can be included in the WH–516 Migrant and Seasonal Farm Worker Disclosure form or any other way that it is effective for workers.

The reason for the new disclosure is to insulate agricultural employers in the event that the Washington Supreme Court rules that farmers must provide extra pay for piece rate workers for rest breaks.

The case is currently being heard in the federal district court for Western Washington. However, the judge in that case has asked the Washington Supreme Court to rule on whether Washington law requires growers to pay extra for rest breaks. The Washington Supreme Court is collecting briefings now, and will hear oral arguments on March 17 at Heritage University in Toppenish.

DEFENSE:
Washington Farm Labor Association (WAFLA) and the Washington State Tree Fruit Association (WSTFA) have contacted two outstanding law firms, Jeffers, Danielson, Sonn & Aylward from Wenatchee, and Stokes Lawrence Velikanje Moore & Shore from Yakima who are interested in writing an amicus curiae brief on behalf of growers who pay piece rate.

WHY YOU SHOULD BE CONCERNED:
If you pay piece rate, this case is vital to you. The plaintiffs are asking the Court to potentially make a retroactive change to the law so that piece rate workers would be able to claim back pay for several past seasons. It is hard to calculate the cost of such a change to the law but it is easily tens of millions and could reach $100 million dollars when you factor in attorney fees.

HOW YOU CAN HELP:
WAFLA and WSTFA are urging growers to contribute to the effort to write a high quality amicus brief by Jeffers, Danielson and Stokes Lawrence. We are suggesting a contribution of one dollar for each piece rate worker you hired in 2014. In order to facilitate contributions, we are asking members to send contributions to:

Washington Farm Bureau Legal Foundation
Attn: Piece Rate Amicus
975 Carpenter Road NE
Lacey, WA 98516

The WFB Legal Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) and therefore individual contributions may be tax deductible. Contributions should be made to the WFB Legal Foundation and should be noted “Labor” or “Piece Rate Amicus.” We hope that every grower takes the opportunity to weigh in by contributing to this important brief.

LEGAL TEAM:
Brendan Monahan is leading the team at Stokes Lawrence. According to Monahan, “It is vital that employers not only allow workers to take rest breaks, but also that they’re able to document the fact that breaks were taken. In addition, employers should clearly communicate and require acknowledgment that piece rate compensation is intended to encompass the rest break and all other activities related to the piece rate job.”

Kristin Ferrera is doing much of the heavy lifting of researching and writing the brief at Jeffers, Danielson. Her thoughts: “Employers need to take steps now to ensure they are properly allowing – and documenting – rest breaks. I have researched the Plaintiffs’ arguments, the cases, statutes and regulations and the law is on our side but, as with any case, there is no way to predict how the Court will rule. Whatever the outcome, this case will affect many employers and workers in Washington State.”

QUESTIONS?
Contact WAFLA Director Dan Fazio at (360) 455-8064, Option 2.

Learn more about this issue! Attend the Winter Ag Academy Owner/HR track and the Annual Labor Conference!