On September 14, JDSA will head to the Washington State Supreme Court to defend Wenatchee-based Dovex Fruit Company in a putative class action lawsuit. At the heart of the case is whether piece-rates paid to agricultural workers cover non-picking tasks such as moving equipment and moving between orchard rows and blocks. The decision in this case will dramatically impact the agricultural industry as a whole for many years to come.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege that agricultural employers and their employees are not allowed to agree to include within the piece rate pay time spent performing non-picking tasks. However, the employer argues that it and its employees have always agreed and understood that non-picking tasks are included within the piece rate consistent with the industry-wide standards and practices.
Piece-rate pay is beneficial not only for farmers and orchardists to efficiently harvest their fruit during the short harvest window, but also benefits workers as it allows them to earn wages that often greatly exceed standard hourly rates and rewards them for their skill and efficiency in harvesting the fruit. Both the agricultural industry and the thousands of skilled orchard workers employed by the industry have significant interests at stake in this important and precedent setting litigation.
Stay tuned for additional updates as the case unfolds.