Retroactive OT pay for farmworkers could devastate Washington state’s ag economy

A Supreme Court ruling in Washington state has farmers worried.

It says that farms should pay time and a half pay for work over 40 hours per week, but it did not indicate if farmworkers could seek retroactive pay for the last three years.

The lack of guidance triggered lawsuits against the dairy industry. Washington State’s Dairy Federation Policy Director, Jay Gordon says that if every dairy farm in the state is targeted, there is an estimated $90-120 million dollars in penalties.

The fear is that other commodities could be next.

According to April Clayton, a Washington tree fruit grower, “Having to pay retroactively for three years of overtime will be the nail in the coffin that ruins the apple industry in Washington state. We followed the law, and we shouldn’t be penalized for following the law.”

The ag industry is now pushing for state legislation to be passed, which could prohibit farms from being retroactively sued.


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