About this Case
TMLG filed suit on behalf of migrant and seasonal agricultural workers for alleged violations of state wage and hour laws and the federal Agricultural Worker Protection Act. The parties reached a settlement that requires payment of $850,000 and substantial injunctive relief. Judge Marsha Pechman of the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington approved the settlement in December 2015. Plaintiffs alleged the following:
- Sakuma Brothers Farms failed to provide state-mandated ten-minute paid rest breaks for every four hours worked.
- Sakuma Brothers Farms violated the Washington Minimum Wage Act by failing to pay for all work performed, including but not limited to cleaning and organizing buckets, baskets and boxes, storing equipment and materials, and moving equipment and materials to different fields.
- Employees did not receive accurate written statements of hours worked.
- Sakuma Brothers Farms improperly rounded hours to nearest half-hour, violating the Washington Department of Labor and Industries Administrative Policy ES.D.2, which states that agricultural employees “may not utilize recordkeeping systems in which 15-minute segments of work time are not recorded or paid.”
- Sakuma Brothers Farms failed to comply with agreed working arrangements in the Blueberry Harvest.
This case resulted in the largest farm worker wage-and-hour class action settlement on record in Washington. Read more about this groundbreaking case here.
As part of the class action settlement in this case, the parties agreed to reserve two questions for court resolution: whether Sakuma must separately pay the workers for their rest break time, and if so, at what rate Sakuma must pay for rest break time. The district court granted the workers’ motion to certify these questions to the Washington Supreme Court.
The Washington Supreme Court announced a unanimous decision on July 16, 2015 in favor of our clients. The Court held that piece-rate farm workers are entitled to receive payment for rest breaks that is over and above their piece-rate compensation. The Court also held that employers must pay for rest break time at the worker’s regular rate or the minimum wage, whichever is greater. The Court said its interpretation was necessary to provide workers with an incentive to take breaks that are necessary for their safety and health. This decision will impact workers across the state who are compensated on a piece-rate basis (e.g., an amount per pound).
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