The Washington State Supreme Court decided this matter in Carranza v. Dovex Fruit Company on May 10, 2018. It is important to note that this case is limited to agricultural workers.
In this case, Dovex Fruit Company (“Dovex”) hired hundreds of seasonal and migrant workers to harvest fruit. These workers were paid on a piece rate basis based on a per “bin” basis for apples and pears harvested and per “lug” basis for cherries harvested. The parties agree that the piece rate compensates them for some of the tasks that are not strictly picking fruit, including going up and down ladders, moving between trees, and emptying fruit bins. The parties disagree that the transporting of ladders to and from the company trailer, traveling between orchards and orchard blocks, attending mandatory meeting and training, and storing equipment and materials is covered by the piece rate.
This Court decided these two issues:
- Does Washington law require agriculture employers to pay their workers for time spent performing activities outside of the piece rate picking work? Yes.
- If the answer to the above question is “yes,” how must agricultural employers calculate the rate of pay for time spent performing activities outside of the piece rate picking work? Time spent performing activities outside the scope of the piece rate picking work must be compensated on a separate per hour basis at or above minimum wage.
Dovex contends that its duty is limited to “workweek averaging,” which is to make sure that each worker’s total weekly compensation results in an average hourly rate of at least minimum wage. This Court disagreed and indicated that the worker’s compensation for non-piece work must be calculated on a “per hour” basis, which is at least minimum wage.