Washington Supreme Court rules employer's payment plan is not a piecework plan under state code in Xerox case

By Chandra Lye | Oct 3, 2018

OLYMPIA, Wash. (Legal Newsline) – The Supreme Court of the state of Washington has responded "no" to a question posed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in a case over employee pay.

The Ninth Circuit asked: "Whether an employer's payment plan, which includes as a metric an employee's 'production minutes,' qualifies as a piecework plan under Washington Administrative Code [WAC] Section 296-126-021,” the Sept. 20 court decision stated. 

In the discussion portion of the document, the court decided that the answer to the certified question was "no." 

“We  answer the certified question from the 9th Circuit in the negative. We hold that actual clock hours cannot be used as a piece rate measure under WAC 296-126-021.”

“If the ‘production minute’ forms the basis for a bona fide piecework system, then one set of minimum wage rules and regulations apply. But if the ‘production minute’ instead forms the basis for an hourly payment system, then another set of hourly and minimum wage protections apply,” the court decision explained.

“The characterization of that compensation formula either as hourly or piecework forms the basis for this wage dispute brought by call center employee Tiffany Hill against her employer Xerox, in federal court,” the decision states.

Hill was a call center employee of Xerox and claims the company failed to pay her appropriately in violation of Washington state law.

“Primarily, she argued that she was an hourly employee, that Xerox paid her for only some minutes worked (her production minutes) but not others, and that she is entitled to back pay for those unpaid, nonproduction minutes,” the ruling stated. 

According to the court decision, Xerox explained that it measured compensation for all time worked based on minutes that employees spend on inbound customer calls.

“Xerox moved for partial summary judgment in federal district court on multiple issues related to minimum wage and overtime compliance under the (Washington Minimum Wage Act),” the court decision stated.

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9th Circuit Appellate Court, San Francisco Washington Supreme Court Xerox Corporation

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