Brendan Monahan Quoted on Pending Piece-Rate Ruling

Mar 18, 2015

Related Practices: Agriculture, Employment and Litigation

Stokes Lawrence Velikanje Moore & Shore Shareholder Brendan Monahan was recently quoted in two Good Fruit Grower articles about the piece-rate rest breaks lawsuit currently before the Washington Supreme Court. On March 17, the Court was at Heritage University in Toppenish, Washington to hear arguments in the case, which stems from a class action lawsuit filed again Sakuma Brothers Farms, a berry farmer in Burlington, Washington. At issue is whether employers who pay workers piece-rate wages owe them additional pay for rest breaks. The Court’s decision could have a significant impact on agricultural employers throughout the state. If the Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, agricultural employers could be facing millions of dollars in back pay, damages and attorneys’ fees.

In “Millions of dollars at stake in piece-rate case,” Brendan notes that the issue is not a dispute between the workers and farm owners, but rather a policy issue. He adds that it will be several months before the Court announces its decision.

Meanwhile, in “What should growers do before the piece-rate ruling?” Brendan advises employers to evaluate their employee handbooks and make sure the language clearly explains that piece rate compensates everything the workers do during the day, including picking fruit, pruning trees, moving ladders, moving between tasks and taking breaks.

All employees should be made aware of this when they are recruited, he adds. They need to sign that they have received the piece-rate policy, along with other policies, and need to be told orally in English and Spanish.

The Stokes Lawrence Employment group regularly reviews employee handbooks for businesses. In addition, several members of the group are fluent in Spanish and can assist employers who have Spanish-speaking employees with training and other employment policies.