Supreme Court rules narrowly for trucker in overtime case

Legal News Line Mar. 1, 2007, 8:02am

Justice Barbara Madsen

SPOKANE -- Washington's interstate truck drivers are entitled to overtime pay no matter where they work during the extra hours, the Washington Supreme Court ruled today. In Bostain and Bostain vs. Food Express Inc. (no. 77201-1) the state Supreme Court, in a close 5-4 ruling, overturned a Court of Appeals ruling that itself overturned a trial court judgment in favor of Bostain, a long-distance trucker. The appellate court ruled that Bostain could not receive overtime for hours worked outside the state. But the Supreme Court disagreed with the lower court that references in the employment statute precluded overtime pay earned outside the state's borders. Rather, noted authoring Justice Barbara Madsen, the statute "speaks to the importance of minimum wage protections for Washington employees in order to encourage Washington employment opportunities." "The act's purpose does not depend on the work itself being performed within this state," Madsen added. But Justice James M. Johnson, in dissent and writing on behalf of Justices Susan Owens, Richard B. Sanders and Bobbe J. Bridge, stated that a key section of the legislature does require that overtime work be performed in-state. Therefore, he concluded, Bostain was not entitled to payment. "The majority's decision...threatens to subject an important industry to the vagaries of a choice of laws analysis regarding a key business decision," Johnson wrote. The case was remanded to trial court for review and determination of attoney fees.

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