A divided Washington state Supreme Court ruled that the state’s dairy workers will get overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours a week.
The Associated Press says it’s possible that the decision could someday apply to the rest of the agriculture industry.
For the past six decades, Washington state laws have mirrored federal law in exempting farmworkers from the classes of employees entitled to overtime pay.
However, the 5-4 court ruling found that unconstitutional.
The majority says the Washington state Constitution grants workers in dangerous industries a fundamental right to health and safety protections, including overtime.
The decision makes Washington the first state to give farmworkers overtime protections through the courts.
California is adding in some overtime protections, as is New York, Maryland, and Minnesota.
The ruling could eventually provide a template for extending farmworker overtime in other states. That statement comes from Charlotte Garden, a professor at the Seattle University School of Law, who worked on a friend-of-the-court brief in the case.
“The law, in this case, is specific to Washington, but it could still inspire new litigation strategies both inside and outside of Washington,” she says in an instant message.