Farmworker overtime ruling could set precedent


Farmworker overtime ruling could set precedent

The state of Washington’s supreme court has ruled in favor of dairy farmworkers seeking overtime pay and it’s likely to serve as a landmark decision for other farmworkers.  

Michael Marsh with the National Council of Ag Employers tells Brownfield Washington’s law is nearly identical to an exemption in the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act that most states follow.

“The plaintiffs in the action brought the case against the dairy farm asserting the exemption that existed in the Washington State law was unconstitutional.”

The court found the 60-year old exemption violated a fundamental state constitutional right to protect the health and safety of all workers in dangerous jobs, like farming.

Additional litigation has been brought forth in the state by other farmworkers seeking overtime pay which Marsh says has created an allowance program similar to what’s being done in California, New York and Minnesota.

“It creates an uncompetitive and unlevel playing field.”

Washington State Dairy Federation and Washington Farm Bureau are repetitioning the decision while the dairy farm has been sold to new owners.

For the federal law to change, Marsh says Congress and the White House would have to remove the exemption.