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The Washington Supreme Court today ruled that piece-rate workers must be paid separately for rest breaks.

The Yakima Herald Reports:

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Piece-rate farm workers must be paid separately for rest breaks, the state Supreme Court said in a ruling issued this morning that is expected to drastically change the way Central Washington’s fruit growers pay employees.

Piece-rate workers should be paid minimum wage or their regular rate for rest breaks, according to the ruling.

 Allowing farmers not to do so renders meaningless state law requiring that the breaks be taken “on the employer’s time”, the ruling said.

Workers take a break from harvesting cherries in Moxee, Washington, on June 18, 2014. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)

Workers take a break from harvesting cherries in Moxee, Washington, on June 18, 2014. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)

In the lawsuit that generated the decision, a Skagit County berry farm argued that the piece rate — or the amount paid per unit of work performed, such as picking fruit or pruning trees — was intended to account for rest breaks.

Read the Herald’s report.

 

Attorneys advise growers to ensure their workers take rest breaks so they don’t fall foul of state and federal regulations. But workers don’t always want to stop work, particularly if they’re being paid piece rate.

Read previous Good Fruit Grower reports on rest breaks.