Martinez-Cuevas v. DeRuyter Brothers Dairy, Inc., 110520 WASC, 96267-7

Docket Nº:96267-7
Opinion Judge:MADSEN, J.
Party Name:JOSE MARTINEZ-CUEVAS and PATRICIA AGUILAR, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Petitioners, v. DERUYTER BROTHERS DAIRY, INC., GENEVA S. DERUYTER, and JACOBUS N. DERUYTER, Respondents, and WASHINGTON STATE DAIRY FEDERATION and WASHINGTON FARM BUREAU, Intervenor-Respondents.
Judge Panel:GonzAlez, J. (concurring) STEPHENS, C.J. (dissenting) JOHNSON, J. (separate dissent)
Case Date:November 05, 2020
Court:Supreme Court of Washington

JOSE MARTINEZ-CUEVAS and PATRICIA AGUILAR, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Petitioners,





No. 96267-7

Supreme Court of Washington, En Banc

November 5, 2020


This case concerns the constitutionality of RCW 49.46.130(2)(g), the provision exempting agricultural workers from the overtime pay requirement set out in the Washington Minimum Wage Act, ch. 49.46 RCW. At issue here is whether the trial court properly granted partial summary judgment to an affected class of agricultural workers who argued that the exemption violates article I, section 12 of our state constitution and the equal protection clause. For the following reasons, we affirm as to article I, section 12.


Jose Martinez-Cuevas and Patricia Aguilar worked for DeRuyter Brothers Dairy as milkers. DeRuyter milkers used mechanized equipment to milk close to 3, 000 cows per shift, 24 hours a day, three shifts a day, 7 days a week.

In 2016, Martinez-Cuevas and Aguilar filed the present class action suit along with about 300 fellow DeRuyter dairy workers. The amended complaint claimed that DeRuyter failed to pay minimum wage to dairy workers, did not provide adequate rest and meal breaks, failed to compensate pre- and post-shift duties, and failed to pay overtime. The complaint also sought a judgment declaring RCW 49.46.130(2)(g)1unconstitutional.

The parties eventually reached a class settlement resolving all but the overtime pay claims. The trial court approved the settlement. The parties stipulated to class certification of the remaining claims. In February 2018, the trial court permitted the Washington State Dairy Federation and Washington Farm Bureau to intervene as defendants.

Martinez-Cuevas and Aguilar moved for summary judgment. They alleged that class members generally worked over 40 hours per week without receiving overtime pay and labored in dangerous conditions. The workers claimed that the agricultural industry was powerful while the agricultural workers were poor, and the exemption was racially motivated to impact the Latinx population, which constitutes nearly 100 percent of Washington dairy workers. Consequently, the workers argued, the agricultural exemption for overtime pay violates article I, section 12 of the Washington State Constitution because it grants a privilege or immunity to the agricultural industry pursuant to a law implicating a fundamental right of state citizenship-the right of all workers in dangerous industries to receive workplace health and safety protections.

The workers further argued that RCW 49.46.130(2)(g) violates the equal protection guaranty of the Washington Constitution. Because the Minimum Wage Act was based on the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-219, which allegedly used race as the basis for exempting farmworkers from overtime compensation, the workers claim that the Minimum Wage Act incorporated the racist motivations underlying the federal statute. Clerk's Papers (CP) at 114, 105 & n.5 (citing Anfinson v. FedEx Ground Package Sys., Inc., 174 Wn.2d 851, 867-70, 281 P.3d 289 (2012) (recognizing the Minimum Wage Act definition of "employee" was based on the Fair Labor Standards Act)). These motivations are unrelated to protecting the health and safety of workers; because health and safety protections are a fundamental right under article II, section 35, the workers argue that strict scrutiny applies and that RCW 49.46.130(2)(g) fails this and any other level of scrutiny.

DeRuyter and the intervenors filed cross motions for summary judgment. They argued that RCW 49.46.130(2)(g) implicates no fundamental right and does not benefit one class over another or violate equal protection. DeRuyter and intervenors disputed the dairy workers' evidence regarding racial bias against Latinx, arguing the agricultural exemption could not be motivated by racial bias because when it was originally passed in 1959, most agricultural workers were white.

After oral argument, the trial court issued a letter order granting in part and denying in part the workers' motion for summary judgment. Eschewing the contention that article II, section 35 creates a fundamental right of state citizenship to employee protection laws, the court instead found in favor of the workers based on a different fundamental right-the right to work and earn a wage. The trial court noted that the right to work "treats a class of workers in a significantly different fashion than other wage earners engaged in the business of selling their labor." CP at 1213-14.

The court reserved for trial the question of whether the legislature had a reasonable ground for providing a privilege or immunity to the agricultural industry in the form of the overtime exemption and did not rule on the constitutionality of RCW 49.46.130(2). As a result, the court denied summary judgment for DeRuyter and the intervenors, denied motions to strike portions of the workers' briefing, and certified the summary judgment order for discretionary review. Martinez-Cuevas and Aguilar moved for discretionary review here, which we granted.


At issue is whether RCW 49.46.130(2)(g) violates the privileges or immunities clause or equal protection, article I, section 12 of the Washington State Constitution. We review the constitutionality of a statute de novo. Schroeder v. Weighall, 179 Wn.2d 566, 571, 316 P.3d 482 (2014). As with a court's construction of statutes, interpreting the meaning of constitutional provisions begins with the plain language of the text. Malyon v. Pierce County, 131 Wn.2d 779, 799, 935 P.2d 1272 (1997); Wash. Water Jet Workers Ass 'n v. Yarbrough, 151 Wn.2d 470, 477, 90 P.3d 42 (2004). Similarly, we review "a trial court's order on cross motions for summary judgment and related evidentiary rulings de novo." Wilkinson v. Chiwawa Cmtys. Ass'n, 180 Wn.2d 241, 249, 327 P.3d 614 (2014). An order granting summary judgment may be affirmed on any legal basis supported by the record. Coppernoll v. Reed, 155 Wn.2d 290, 296, 119 P.3d 318 (2005) (citing LaMon v. Butler, 112 Wn.2d 193, 200-01, 770 P.2d 1027 (1989)).

Article I, section 12

"No law shall be passed granting to any citizen, class of citizens, or corporation other than municipal, privileges or immunities which upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens, or corporations." WASH. CONST, art. I, § 12. Passed during a period of distrust toward laws that served special interests, the purpose of article I, section 12 is to limit the sort of favoritism that ran rampant during the territorial period. Ockletree v. Franciscan Health Sys., 179 Wn.2d 769, 775, 317 P.3d 1009 (2014) (plurality opinion) (citing ROBERT F. UTTER & HUGH D. SPITZER, THE WASHINGTON State Constitution: A Reference Guide 26-27 (G. Alan Tarr ed., 2002)).

Washington courts have at times interpreted article I, section 12 consistent with the federal equal protection clause, but we have also recognized that the text and aims of article I, section 12 are different. Id. at 775-76. Historically, this court has read the antifavoritism framework of article I, section 12 as limited to fundamental rights of state citizenship. State v. Vance, 29 Wash. 435, 458, 70 P. 34 (1902) (interpreting the state privileges and immunities clause consistent with article IV, section 2 of the federal constitution)). These fundamental rights, according to the dissent, were recognized in Corfield v. Coryell as Lockean "natural rights." 6 F. Cas. 546, 551-52 (C.C.E.D. Pa. 1823) (No. 3, 230). Dissent at 5; but see Richard L. Aynes, Constricting the Law of Freedom: Justice Miller, The Fourteenth Amendment, and the Slaughter-House Cases, 70 CHI.-KENT L. REV. 627, 651 (1994) (arguing that the "most logical reading of. . . Corfield is that 'fundamental' was not being used in a natural law sense, but rather as a synonym for 'constitutional'"). The dissent also asserts that Corfield's natural rights interpretation evolved after the Civil War to favor an antidiscrimination construction, as evidenced by the Slaughter-House Cases, 2 among others. Dissent at 6 n.2. The Slaughter-House decision did adopt an antidiscrimination principle, but it did so at the expense of the language and purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

While the history of the federal privileges or immunities clause does not alter our holding in the present case, we take the opportunity to review it here in order to clarify why we diverge from the federal antidiscrimination principle and, perhaps more importantly, to correct the many misstatements about the history of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Drafted in 1866 by Congressman John Bingham of Ohio, the Fourteenth Amendment was intended to give Congress the power to "secure to the citizen of each State all the privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States in the several States," and provide the power to "enforce the bill of rights as it stands in the Constitution today." CONG. GLOBE, 39th Cong., 1st Sess. 1095, 1088 (1866); see also Aynes, supra, at 629-32 (listing statements from Congressional lawmakers that the intent of the Fourteenth Amendment was to enforce the Bill of Rights against the states); Michael Anthony Lawrence, Rescuing the Fourteenth Amendment Privileges or Immunities Clause: How "Attrition of Parliamentary Process" Begat Accidental Ambiguity; How Ambiguity Begat Slaughter-House, 18 WM. & MARY BILL RTS. J. 445, 449-50 (stating that the members of Congress in 1866 understood "perfectly well that Section 1 [of the Fourteenth...

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