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Farmworkers & Workers’ Rights

Workers are protected by laws and rules covering workers’ wages, working conditions, overtime pay, and prevailing wage on public works construction projects. 

 

Farmworkers

Rest Breaks

All workers must be allowed a paid rest period, free from duties, of at least 10 minutes for every 4 hours worked. The right to receive paid rest breaks cannot be waived by the worker or employer.

 

Note: Recent court cases have defined how agricultural workers must be paid during their rest breaks.

  • Hourly workers must be paid their regular hourly rate during their rest breaks.

    • For workers with more than one hourly rate, or who have both hourly and piece rate pay, calculate their regular hourly rate by totaling the weekly amount of pay and divide by the hours worked.

  • Piece-rate workers must be paid “on the employer’s time,” which is based on their regular rate of pay or the minimum wage, whichever is greater.

    • A worker’s “regular rate of pay” is calculated by dividing:

      • Their total weekly earnings, by

      • Their total active hours of work, excluding rest breaks.

      • This calculation must include any non-discretionary bonuses, including those paid after harvest, which are retroactively calculated.

 

Restroom breaks

Workers must be provided “reasonable access” to bathrooms and toilet facilities. Employers cannot restrict use of bathroom or toilet facilities to rigid time schedules (e.g., only during scheduled breaks), or impose unreasonable time use restrictions. Restroom breaks are paid as hours worked. (DOSH Directive 5.98)

 

Meal Periods

All workers must receive a meal period of at least 30 minutes for every 5 hours worked. If they work more than 11 hours in a day, then they must receive an additional meal period of at least 30 minutes.

 

Meal periods are unpaid as long as the workers are fully relieved of duties during the entirety of their meal periods. The employer must ensure workers receive their meal period. (see WAC 296-131-020)

 

Paid meal breaks

Workers must be paid for meal breaks if the meal period is interrupted and they are called back to work. 

 

Employees who are required to work or remain on duty during a meal break are still entitled to 30 total minutes of mealtime, excluding interruptions. The entire meal period must be paid regardless of the number of interruptions.

 

Worker’s 

Employees have a right under Washington law to take rest breaks and meal breaks. 

Employees under 18 and agricultural workers have different standards than those listed on this page. With only a few exceptions, an employee’s work schedule is set by their employer.

Rest Breaks

Employees must be allowed a paid rest period, free from duties, of at least 10 minutes for every 4 hours worked. Additionally:

  • Employees cannot be required to work more than 3 hours without a rest break.

  • Breaks must be scheduled as close to the midpoint of a work period as possible.

  • Employers can require workers to stay on the job site during a rest break.

  • Rest breaks taken are considered “hours worked” when calculating paid sick leave and overtime.

 

In some jobs, “mini” rest breaks can be taken instead of a scheduled rest break. These “mini” rest breaks must total at least 10 minutes over a 4-hour period.

 

Nursing mothers may have additional rights under federal law.

 

Health care workers may also have specific meal and rest period requirements.

 

Restroom breaks

Employees must be provided “reasonable access” to bathrooms and toilet facilities. Employers cannot restrict use of bathroom or toilet facilities to rigid time schedules (e.g., only during scheduled breaks), or impose unreasonable time use restrictions. (DOSH Directive 5.98)

 

Meal Periods

Employees must be allowed a meal period when they work more than five hours in a shift. A meal period must be at least 30 minutes long and start between the second and fifth hour of the shift.

 

Paid meal periods

Employees must be paid for meal breaks if:

  • They are required to remain on duty.

  • The employer requires them to remain on-call on the premises or work site in the interest of the employer, even if they are not called back to duty.

  • They are called back to work, interrupting the meal period.

 

Employees who are required to work or remain on duty during a meal break are still entitled to 30 total minutes of mealtime, excluding interruptions. The entire meal period must be paid regardless of the number of interruptions. Work performed during meal breaks is considered “hours worked” when calculating paid sick leave and overtime.

 

Unpaid meal periods

Employers are not required to pay for a meal break if an employee is free from all duties for their entire break. Employees can only be required to remain on the premises or work site during their meal period if they are completely free from work duties.

 

Unpaid meal breaks are not considered “hours worked.”

 

File a worker's rights complaint: If you feel your rights have been violated, you can file a worker’s rights complaint at https://secure.lni.wa.gov/wagecomplaint/#/

 

For more information visit https://www.lni.wa.gov/workers-rights/

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