Washington court rules truckers must be paid OT

SEATTLE — Washington State truckers and other workers are entitled to overtime if they’re on the job more than exceed 40 hours per week, the state Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision last week.

According to Associate Press, Washington’s minimum wage law “unambiguously requires that overtime be paid to a Washington employee based on all hours worked,” — even if much of their time is clocked out of state, Justice Barbara Madsen wrote for the majority.

In his dissent, Justice Jim Johnson said the decision could throw the trucking industry into turmoil since drivers are usually paid by the mile, not the hour.

The case stems from dispute between Food Express Inc., based in Arcadia, Calif., and its Washington-based employee Larie E. Bostain, who drove for the company, until he was fired in 2002. He averaged 48 hours per week hauling food, but he never worked more than 40 hours a week within Washington.

Bostain claimed he should have received time-and-a-half for overtime, or the equivalent if they are paid by the mile.

The Department Labor and Industries has stipulated in the past that overtime must be paid only if drivers log more than 40 hours within the state. The court said that interpretation was wrong.

Phil Talmadge, a former state Supreme Court justice who represented the Washington Trucking Association in the case, says he’ll appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The court was oblivious to the practical implications of what it just decided,” Talmadge said, adding the ruling would require companies to make complicated decisions about which interstate drivers are considered Washington employees.

Forcing companies to pay additional overtime would affect prices, and dispatch routes, he said.

— from Associate Press

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