News & Press: Employment Law

Changes to the Employment Standards Policy are in the Works

Friday, April 15, 2016   (0 Comments)

In December 2015, the Department of Labor & Industries launched the Employment Standards policy development effort relating to intermittent rest breaks for Washington employees. LNI issues Administrative Policies on a number of employment-related matters, available through their website to provide guidance to the public regarding the agency’s interpretation of the laws it enforces. The original scope of their efforts was to review and address changes to the language in the policy with regards to paid rest breaks for piece rate agricultural workers first, followed by non-agriculture intermittent rest breaks and paid rest breaks for piece rate, non-agricultural workers. Finally, they would look at other policy amendments for Employment Standards Rest Break Policy ES.C.6 and ES.C.6.2.


The conversation related to paid rest breaks for piece rate agricultural workers was launched on January 6, 2016, and the first meeting regarding intermittent rest breaks for non-agricultural workers occurred on March 15, 2016. As discussed in the March meeting, LNI noted case law from 2011 (Pellino v. Brink’s, Inc.) and discussed whether that case necessitated changes in the policy. The Washington Administrative Code (WAC 296-126-092) imposes a mandatory obligation on the employer to provide meal periods and rest breaks but does allow “intermittent” rest breaks under certain circumstances. Intermittent rest breaks are commonly used for a variety of reasons rather than providing an uninterrupted block of time. Changes to this policy could have significant consequences for both workers and employers.   


A May 18th meeting was used as an opportunity to check in, discuss the process, and identify topics and interests for next steps in the overall rest break policy development effort. As this policy update moves forward the Associated Industries legal team will monitor and report on any new developments employers will need to be aware of and if the changes are significant we will look at the need to host a workshop for updating your meal time and rest break policies to comply with the new standards.


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