State Supreme Court Grants Overtime to Dairy Workers
The Washington Supreme Court has ruled that dairy workers, specifically “milkers,” should be entitled to overtime pay rates.
What are the details?
Previously, in the state of Washington, there were many exemptions to the overtime provisions in the state minimum wage laws. The state Supreme Court ruled that it was in direct violation of the state constitution, namely, Article I, section 12, providing that “no law shall be passed granting to any citizen, class of citizens … privileges or immunities which upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens.” With this in mind, the court decided that it is a fundamental “right of all Washington workers in dangerous industries to receive workplace health and safety protections.“ The court then claimed that the Washington legislature had no reasonable ground to favor agricultural employers and exclude agricultural employees from overtime laws.
While this ruling was specifically for dairy workers, the attacks made by the court are against all exemptions related to agricultural workers. With this in mind, the minority’s opinion in this case stated that the ruling essentially “farm workers will now be entitled to future overtime pay,” without qualification.
An article going over this case can be found here.
The Washington Supreme Court case ruling can be found here.
What do employers need to do?
Employers with agricultural employees within Washington State should consult with their employment attorneys immediately to evaluate their next steps.