OLYMPIA, Wash. (Legal Newsline) — Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Aug. 1 that his office has filed a “friend of the court” brief supporting agricultural workers in Carranza and Martinez v. Dovex Fruit Company.

Dovex allegedly has a policy of dividing an employee’s weekly piece-rate wages by the total number of hours they worked to come up with a total payment amount. The company compares the number to the state’s minimum wage. In cases where the “workweek average” wage is lower the state’s hourly minimum wage, Dovex augments that worker’s wages. However, if a worker’s averaged piece-rate pay is higher than the state’s minimum wage, they purportedly receive no additional pay.

Ferguson argues the minimum wage is intended to separate compensation for each hour of work. Therefore, piece-rate pay does not properly pay the workers, because the workers do other things besides pick fruit. They should then be compensated separately for each hour of non-picking work, Ferguson argues.

“Farmworkers do backbreaking work, and they deserve to be compensated for all of the time they spend working,” Ferguson said.

Authoring the brief for Ferguson’s office was assistant attorney general Julian Beattie.

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