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Total Articles: 7

$12 Minimum Wage Passed in Tacoma, Washington

Voters in Tacoma, Washington, on November 3 approved an ordinance that will establish a local minimum wage of $10.35 starting in February 2016 and then incrementally raise it to $12 by February 2018. Starting in February 2019, the Tacoma minimum wage will be adjusted for inflation each year.

Washington Supreme Court Finds that City of SeaTac Minimum Wage/Paid Sick Leave Ordinance Applies to Employers Located at the Port of Seattle

The legal challenge to the SeaTac Minimum Employment Standard for Hospitality and Transportation Industry Employers (“SeaTac Ordinance”) was dealt a possibly lethal blow as the Washington Supreme Court reversed the King County Superior Court’s ruling that the Ordinance does not apply to businesses operating within the Port of Seattle. After the SeaTac Ordinance was passed in 2013, legal challenges began. In December 2013, King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas ruled that the Ordinance was invalid as to “employers and employees conducting business within the boundaries of SeaTac International Airport.”

Washington High Court: Piece Rate Compensation Alone Does Not Satisfy Rest Break Pay Requirement

The Washington Supreme Court has ruled that employers must provide agricultural piece rate workers with extra compensation for their rest periods, rejecting the employer’s argument that its piece rate already included compensation for the required rest periods. Demetrio v. Sakuma Bros. Farms, Inc., 2015 Wash. LEXIS 807 (Wash. July 16, 2015).

Washington Piece-Rate Workers to Receive Separate Rest Breaks

The expansive interpretation of meal and rest break regulations continues in Washington State, as the state's highest court ruled in Demetrio v. Sakuma Brothers Farms, Inc., Case No. 90932-6 (Wash. Sup. Ct. July 16, 2015), that agricultural piece-rate workers are entitled to separate paid rest breaks. The court reasoned that hourly workers remain "on the clock" during rest breaks, and thus piece-rate workers should receive the same treatment.

Washington Employers Must Pay Piece Rate Workers Additional Rest Break Compensation

With some limited exceptions, Washington State wage and hour rules require that workers receive a paid 10 minute rest break for every four hours worked. The Washington Supreme Court has now expanded employer obligations in this regard by ruling that employers must pay piece rate workers additional compensation for the required rest periods. The July 16, 2015 decision in Demetrio v. Sakuma Brothers Farms, Inc. states that the rest break time cannot be folded into the piece rate, and instead must be paid separately. While this case arose in the agricultural-worker context, its key holding likely applies to all industries that use piece rate compensation plans – plans under which an employee’s pay is based on the number of “pieces” he or she generates or completes.

Washington’s Highest Court Rules Piece Rate Compensation Does Not Satisfy Rest Break Pay Requirement

Like all compensation methods, piece rate compensation plans – under which an employee is compensated based on the number of “pieces” he or she generates or completes – must be analyzed for wage-and-hour compliance. For example, under federal law, minimum wage generally is due for all hours worked, and there are recordkeeping obligations, although some piece rate plans may qualify for the section 7(i) overtime exemption. Under state law, employers also must analyze whether piece rate employees’ compensation meets all applicable requirements, which supplement FLSA requirements for most employers. A new decision from Washington state’s highest court reinforces this last principle and imposes further payment obligations on certain Washington employers. Demetrio v. Sakuma Bros. Farms, Inc., 2015 Wash. LEXIS 807 (Wash. July 16, 2015).

Seattle Increases Minimum Wage to $15.00 Per Hour Over Several Years

Joining Hawaii, Maryland and Connecticut, all of which have voted to gradually raise their state minimum wages to $10.10 per hour, and Massachusetts, which has voted to gradually increase its minimum wage to $11.00 per hour, Seattle has become the first city to pass a $15.00 per hour minimum wage. The initial impact of the city ordinance will be felt by Seattle employers beginning on April 1, 2015, with additional increases in the minimum wage phased in over several years.
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