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On September 5, 2019, the Washington Supreme Court issued a huge win for all non-agricultural employers who pay commission or piece-rate pay to their employees in Washington state. In a 6-3 decision, the Washington Supreme Court held in Sampson v. Knight Transportation (No. 96264-2) that a non-agricultural piece-rate employer complies with the Washington Minimum Wage Act when an employee’s total earnings in given workweek divided by the employee’s total hours worked in the same workweek exceeds the applicable minimum wage rate. While this conclusion may seem obvious, the Washington Supreme Court in 2018 rejected the same workweek averaging method for agricultural workers. Carranza v. Dovex Fruit Co., 190 Wn. 2d 612 (2018) held that the Washington Minimum Wage Act (“MWA”) requires agricultural workers earning piece-rate pay to be separately compensated on an hourly basis for all “activities outside of piece-rate [] work.” The question in Sampson was whether the holding in Carranza should be extended to non-agricultural piece-rate employers. Relying on a regulation promulgated over 40 years ago by the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (“DLI”), the Washington Supreme Court held that Carranza’s separate compensation rule is confined to the narrow context of agricultural employment.
Continue Reading Peace for Piece-Rate Employers in Washington

On January 8, 2019, the United States Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in Henry Schein, Inc. v. Archer & White Sales, Inc. strengthening the enforceability of arbitration “delegation clauses.” These clauses have been previously upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and allow parties to agree that an arbitrator, rather than a court, will decide the threshold issue of whether a dispute must be arbitrated, as well as the merits of the dispute. The Supreme Court in Henry Schein rejected a doctrine adopted by several federal Circuit Courts of Appeals and the California Court of Appeal, which permitted courts to decline to enforce delegation clauses if the underlying assertion of arbitrability was “wholly groundless.” Under Henry Schein, courts must refer questions of arbitrability to the arbitrator when the parties have agreed to a clear and unmistakable delegation, even if the court believes the claim of arbitrability is frivolous.
Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Rejects ‘Wholly Groundless’ Exception to Delegation Clauses in Arbitration Agreements

On July 26, 2018, the California Supreme Court issued its long awaited decision in Troester v. Starbucks Corporation (S234969) on whether California wage and hour law recognizes the de minimis doctrine established by the United States Supreme Court in Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co. 328 U.S. 680 (1946) for wage claims arising under federal law.  Under the federal de minimis rule, small amounts of otherwise compensable work time are not actionable when tracking and paying for it is impractical.  Anderson held: “When the matter in issue concerns only a few seconds or minutes of work beyond the scheduled working hours, such trifles may be disregarded.  Split-second absurdities are not justified by the actualities of working conditions or by the policy of the Fair Labor Standards Act.  It is only when an employee is required to give up a substantial measure of his time and effort that compensable working time is involved.”  Id. at 692.  In deciding whether compensable work time is de minimis, federal courts consider “(1) the practical administrative difficulty of recording the additional time; (2) the aggregate amount of compensable time; and (3) the regularity of the additional work.” See e.g. Lindow v. U.S. 738 F.2d 1057, 1063 (9th Cir. 1984); Kellar v. Summit Seating Inc., 664 F.3d 169, 176 (7th Cir. 2011); Kosakow v. New Rochelle Radiology Assocs., P.C. 274 F.3d 706, 719 (2d Cir. 2001).  Ten minutes or less is generally considered de minimis under federal law.  See Lindow, 738 F.2d at 1062.  The issue before the California Supreme Court in Troester (certified from the Ninth Circuit) was whether California wage and hour law recognizes the same or a similar rule.  Even though de minimis worktime is (by definition) small and insignificant, whether or not a de minimus exception to the requirement to pay for all time worked applies has major implications because relatively small amounts of unpaid wages have the potential to trigger substantial penalties and liability for plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees in California.
Continue Reading California Supreme Court Issues Narrow Holding In De Minimis Case, Leaving Many Issues Unresolved

On August 31, 2017, Judge Amos Mazzant in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas issued an order granting a group of twenty-one states’ and fifty-five business associations’ motion for summary judgment in consolidated cases seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against a May 23, 2016 Department of Labor rule drastically increasing the minimum salary an employee must earn to qualify for the most common exemptions from the federal overtime laws. The rule was originally scheduled to go into effect on December 1, 2016 and would have increased the minimum salary an employee must earn to qualify for the administrative, executive or professional exemption from federal overtime requirements from $455 per week ($23,660 annually) to $913 per week ($47,476 annually). The rule also would have provided for automatic increases to the minimum salary level every three years. Judge Mazzant had issued a nationwide preliminary injunction on November 22, 2016 delaying implementation of the Department of Labor’s new minimum salary rule, finding that it was likely unlawful and would cause irreparable harm to the plaintiff states and business groups. Judge Mazzant’s August 31, 2017 order confirms the findings in the November 22, 2016 preliminary injunction and represents a final decision at the district court level that the Department of Labor’s May 23, 2016 minimum salary rule is illegal and void.
Continue Reading Federal Court Strikes Down Department of Labor’s Overtime Rule