Change in Scope of Piece-Rate Work?

For those who may remember, WA state decided a couple years ago that employers must pay piece rate workers for rest periods “separate and apart” from the piece rate. See this link for a previous post on this:  http://blogs.claconnect.com/agribusiness/4613/

Well, as with most issues of this nature it didn’t stop there.  The Washington Supreme Court is currently hearing a case whether Washington farmers can continue to pay a straight piece rate but other arguments are being made about which tasks can be part of that piece rate and which are not.

Some tasks that are up for question whether or not they should fall under a piece rate pay are:

  • Climbing ladders
  • Emptying bins
  • Travelling between fields
  • Attending meetings, including trainings

By the end of this there are sure to be more tasks considered, but this could reshape production based pay structures.  Ultimately, farms argue the current piece rate structure rewards efficient workers, where farm worker advocates argue this leaves some work unpaid.

While this may only be a WA state case at the moment, it could have indirect effects on other states if they follow suit, which often happens.  Another issue may be whether any ruling here is going to be prospective, or retrospective? Either way, it is an important case to follow for any farming operations that use piece rate pay.

Special thanks to David Enquist for the post.

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Paul Neiffer is a certified public accountant and business advisor specializing in income taxation, accounting services, and succession planning for farmers and agribusiness processors. Paul is a partner with CliftonLarsonAllen in Yakima, Washington, as well as a regular speaker at national conferences and contributor at agweb.com. Raised on a farm in central Washington, he has been immersed in the ag industry his entire life, including the last 30 years professionally. In fact, Paul drives combine each summer for his cousins and that is what he considers a vacation.

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