Last week, Yakima Superior Court Judge Blaine Gibson gave final approval of a class action settlement for over $1 million for claims of retroactive overtime pay for a class of milkers at DeRutyer Brothers Dairy, Inc.
The parties reached an agreement after the Washington Supreme Court ruled that Washington’s exclusion of dairy workers from overtime pay work was unconstitutional because it violated “a fundamental right for Washington workers to health and safety protections” under the state constitution.
The lawsuit was filed by two dairy milkers, Jose Martinez-Cuevas and Patricia Aguilar, against DeRuyter Brothers Dairy, Inc., which owned and managed a large dairy operation in Outlook, Washington, with a herd of over 5,000 milking cows. Lori Isley, Andrea Schmitt, and Joe Morrison of Columbia Legal Services (CLS) and Marc Cote and Anne Silver of the Seattle law firm Frank Freed Subit & Thomas LLP represent the workers.
The workers alleged they worked nine to twelve hours a day, six days a week, without the benefit of overtime pay based on the unconstitutional exclusion of agricultural workers from overtime protection. The parties reached a settlement after briefing was submitted to the Superior Court on the issue whether the Washington Supreme Court’s decision applied retroactively. Under the terms of the settlement 264 class members who worked at DeRutyer Brothers Dairy, Inc. will receive 100% of their overtime pay and additional interest.
“It was a long journey, but through this lawsuit we were able to establish a right to overtime pay for all dairy workers in Washington State who worked long hours without overtime compensation and put their health and safety at risk,” said class representative Jose Martinez. “I am happy with the results and proud to have been part of this case. I am also thankful to our attorneys, Familias Unidas por La Justicia, and the UFW for their support through this case,“ he said.
“This is the right outcome for our clients. The Washington Supreme Court’s decision also paved the way for overtime protections for all agricultural workers in the state,” said Andrea Schmitt, an attorney with Columbia Legal Services.
“The purpose of overtime laws is to protect workers from long hours that are harmful to their health,” said Marc Cote of Frank Freed Subit & Thomas LLP. “For decades workers in other industries had the protection of these laws, while farmworkers were excluded from these important protections. The Washington Supreme Court’s decision begins to address this longstanding example of systemic racism that was based on a New Deal era exclusion of farmworkers from fair labor standards,” said Marc Cote. Mr. Cote added, “We appreciate the DeRuyters’ willingness to step forward and compensate the workers with this settlement.”
At least four other states (CA, MN, NY, MD) provide overtime protection to agricultural workers.
Marc Cote, Frank Freed Subit & Thomas LLP Attorney
Andrea Schmitt, Columbia Legal Services Attorney
360-943-6260 Ext 203, email@example.com
Charlie McAteer, Columbia Legal Services Communications