Washington State Supreme Court Overtime Decision

In November 2020, the Washington Supreme Court issued a decision in Martinez-Cuevas v. DeRuyter Bros. Dairy, Inc.—a case that addressed the entitlement of certain agricultural workers to overtime pay. After the Court issued the decision, several parties filed motions for reconsideration. Those motions were denied. L&I is now analyzing the court's ruling before providing further guidance.

Most employees are entitled to overtime pay after working 40 hours per week, but there are several categories of employees who are not required to receive overtime in Washington.

Executive, Administrative, and Professional Employees

The most common overtime exemption applies to “white collar” salaried workers in a bona fide executive, administrative, professional, computer professional, or outside sales. To qualify as an overtime-exempt position, it must meet strict requirements defined by federal and state law, which includes minimum salaries and primary duty tests.

According to federal guidance, this overtime exemption does not apply to “manual laborers or other ‘blue collar’ workers who perform work involving repetitive operations with their hands, physical skill, and energy.”

See Salary Basis for White Collar Workers (ES.A.9.1) and Fact Sheet #17A: Exemption for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Computer & Outside Sales Employees Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for additional guidance.

Agricultural Workers

Most agricultural workers are exempt from overtime under Washington State law and are not eligible for overtime.

Overtime does not apply to individuals working:

  • On a farm including:
    • Soil cultivation
    • Raising a crop – including harvesting any agricultural or horticultural commodity
    • Handling livestock – including raising, shearing, feeding, caring for, training, and management of livestock, bees, poultry, furbearing animals, and wildlife
    • Farm operations – including management, conservation, improvement, or maintenance of a farm, its tools, and equipment
  • In packing, packaging, grading, storing, or delivering any agricultural or horticultural commodity.
  • In commercial canning, freezing, or processing any agricultural or horticultural commodity including its delivery to a terminal market for distribution for consumption.
  • In the cultivation, raising, harvesting, and processing of oysters, including delivery to a terminal market for distribution for consumption.
  • See RCW 49.46.130 (g) for complete details.

Casual Laborers

Individuals “employed in casual labor in or about a private home” are exempt from overtime and minimum wage requirements. Casual labor refers to employment that is:

  • Irregular,
  • Uncertain, or
  • Incidental in nature and duration.

Some examples of casual labor would include:

  • Hiring a neighbor to babysit your children for an evening
  • Having a teenager rake leaves, mow your lawn, or weed a flower bed or garden
  • Asking someone to watch your house and feed your pets while you’re on vacation
  • Paying a friend to move furniture for you or help declutter a closet

Other Jobs That Are Exempt From Overtime

Other positions that are exempt from overtime in Washington include:

  • All employees exempted from the Minimum Wage Act including:
    • Railroad, oil pipeline, and other workers regulated under Part I of the Interstate Commerce Act.
    • Workers that perform forest protection and fire prevention activities.
    • Workers whose duties require that they sleep or reside at the place of employment.
    • Workers who spend a substantial portion of their work time subject to call.
    • Public elected or appointed officers and employees of the state legislature.
  • Persons employed as “Seamen” – including foreign and American vessels.
  • Seasonal employees at agricultural fairs, if the worker has not worked more than 14 days per year at any such fair.
  • Employees of an interstate air carrier when they have voluntarily traded work shifts, under certain arrangements.

Jobs Eligible For Alternative Overtime Arrangements

The following jobs require payment of overtime, but workers may be paid on an alternative overtime payment method:

  • Truck or bus drivers whose company has a “reasonably equivalent” overtime compensation plan.
  • Commissioned salespeople selling certain vehicles (including cars, trucks, recreational vehicles, manufactured housing, or farm implements) if they receive payment equal to time and one-half the minimum wage for all hours worked.
  • Retail or service establishment workers if they earn more than half of their wages per week in commissions.
  • Firefighters and police officers of public agencies who work certain tours of duty.
  • Public employees who request compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay.
  • Industries that are subject to federal law requiring overtime based on a workweek other than 40 hours.
    • Industries who lease federal land for recreational purposes – payment of overtime after 56 hours/week.
    • Hospital and residential care establishments with agreements allowing a 14-day, 80-hour, no greater than 8-hours-per-day cycle.