Court: Piece-rate pickers must be paid for ‘down time’

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — The Washington Supreme Court has ruled that piece-rate farmworkers in the state must be paid separately for tasks outside of piece-rate picking work.

In a 5-4 ruling Thursday, the majority wrote that state law mandates employees receive at least minimum wage for all work performed, The Capital Press reports . The ruling stems from a 2016 federal class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of seasonal and migrant agricultural employees against the Dovex Fruit Co. of Wenatchee. A federal judge referred the question to the state court for a decision.

The majority opinion, written by Justice Mary Yu, did not define what constitutes that so-called down time, deferring resolution of that to the district court.

The main dissent, authored by Justice Debra Stephens, argued that the state’s minimum wage act was not intended to forbid other types of compensation systems.