Search form

Non-Agricultural Employers May Use Workweek Averaging to Satisfy State Minimum Wage Obligations in Washington

By Peter H. Nohle
  • September 9, 2019

The Washington Supreme Court has confirmed that non-agricultural employers may use a workweek averaging methodology to satisfy the Washington Minimum Wage Act. Sampson et al. v. Knight Transportation Inc. et al., No. 96264-2 (Sept. 5, 2019). In other words, non-agricultural employers can satisfy their state minimum wage obligations by showing that an employee’s total wages for a workweek, when divided by the total hours worked during that week, results in a figure that is equal to or greater than the state minimum wage.

Workweek averaging is a well-accepted concept as a matter of federal law. It also had been a long-accepted practice in Washington in both the agricultural and non-agricultural contexts. However, an employer’s ability to use that methodology to satisfy its minimum wage obligation in a non-agricultural setting was recently thrown into question as a result of the Washington Supreme Court opinion in Carranza v. Dovex Fruit Co., 190 Wn.2d 612 (2018). In Carranza, the Court held that workweek averaging was not permitted in an agricultural setting. Instead, the Court ruled that employers must pay their employees at least the minimum wage for each hour worked. This meant that employers who paid their employees on a piece rate basis, for example, by the amount of fruit that was picked, had to separately and hourly pay their employees for work that was not directly related to the picking of fruit (e.g., traveling between orchards, attending meetings, and storing and maintaining equipment and materials).

In Sampson, the Court considered a certified question from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington: “Does the Washington Minimum Wage Act require non-agricultural employers to pay their piece-rate employees per hour for time spent performing activities outside of piece-rate work?” Essentially, the Court was tasked with determining whether the rule established by Carranza in an agricultural setting would be applied to non-agricultural employers. In a 6-3 decision, the Sampson Court responded in the negative, and affirmed the validity of workweek averaging as set forth in WAC 296-126-021.

While Sampson arose in a transportation context — involving truck drivers who were paid by the mile — its application extends well beyond the specifics of that industry and provides relief to all non-agricultural employers who pay their employees on a piece rate or commission basis.

 

©2019 Jackson Lewis P.C. This material is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice nor does it create a client-lawyer relationship between Jackson Lewis and any recipient. Recipients should consult with counsel before taking any actions based on the information contained within this material. This material may be considered attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Reproduction of this material in whole or in part is prohibited without the express prior written consent of Jackson Lewis P.C., a law firm that built its reputation on providing workplace law representation to management. Founded in 1958, the firm has grown to more than 900 attorneys in major cities nationwide serving clients across a wide range of practices and industries including government relations, healthcare and sports law. More information about Jackson Lewis can be found at www.jacksonlewis.com.

See AllRelated Articles You May Like

September 20, 2019

Minneapolis Enacts ‘Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance’ on Heels of Minnesota’s Wage Theft Legislation

September 20, 2019

On January 1, 2020, the newly passed Wage Theft Prevention Ordinance will go into effect in the City of Minneapolis. The Ordinance largely incorporates the State of Minnesota’s wage theft legislation (Minnesota Wage Theft Laws). (For details of the Minnesota wage theft legislation, see our article, Minnesota Adds New Wage Payment and... Read More

September 13, 2019

California Supreme Court Rejects Claim for Unpaid Wages under PAGA

September 13, 2019

Putting an end to employees’ backdoor attempts to recover unpaid wages in Private Attorneys General Act-only actions under California Labor Code Section 558, the California Supreme Court has ruled against allowing such claims. ZB, N.A., et al. v. Superior Court, No. S246711 (Sept. 12, 2019). This is surprising, as the Court provided... Read More

September 13, 2019

California Worker Misclassification Bill Closer to Enactment

September 13, 2019

The California Assembly has passed a bill that would require workers to be classified as employees if the employer exerts control over how the workers perform their tasks or if their work is part of the employer’s regular business. Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5) passed by a vote of 61-16 in the Assembly. Governor Gavin Newsom has stated his... Read More

Related Practices