Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Captive-audience housing can't count against Oregon's minimum wage

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that, if farmworkers in Oregon have no real alternative to buying an employer's housing, the employer can't count the deducted daily cost of their housing toward Oregon minimum wage requirements. Also, final payday is the last day of work, not the next morning.

The case involved peach and pear picking outside Medford, Oregon, which is almost certainly less idyllic than it sounds. My parents had summer jobs in peach orchards a long time ago. If you're sensitive to peach fuzz, as some people are, you can't touch your face or eyes all day.

It's a little tough to figure out how this [Edit: oops, I mean the new decision, not the peach fuzz] might apply in places like California that are within the Ninth Circuit's jurisdiction but outside Oregon law. Plaintiffs alleged violations of both the federal Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act and Oregon minimum wage laws. Oregon law supplied the final-payday rule and a key definition of housing -- whether it was for the worker's "private benefit" or a requirement of the employer. But anyway cheers to the Oregon Law Center for winning this one.

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