Washington State Overtime and Labor LawsBelow is an overview of the minimum wage and overtime pay laws that apply to workers in the state of Washington. Private actions to enforce Washington’s wage and hour laws, and recover unpaid overtime due to workers, are commonly brought (on a contingent fee basis) by employment law firms such as The Lore Law Firm. If you believe that you have been deprived of the overtime pay that you are legally entitled to, please contact us for a free and confidential review of your situation.
As of January 1, 2017, Washington state minimum wage increased to $11.00 per hour. Prior minimum wage rates were:
- January 1, 2016 $9.47
- January 1, 2015 $9.47
- January 1, 2014 $9.32
- January 1, 2013 $9.19
- January 1, 2012 $9.04
- January 1, 2011 $8.67
- January 1, 2010 $8.55
- January 1, 2009 $8.55
- January 1, 2008 $8.07
- For 2017: $13.50/hour if employer pays toward medical benefits. $15/hour if not.
- For 2016: $12/hour if employer pays toward medical benefits. $13/hour if not.
- For 2017: $11/hour if employer pays $1.50/hour towards medical benefits and/or the employees earns $1.50/hour in tips. $13/hour if not.
- For 2016: $10.50/hour if employer pays $1.50/hour towards medical benefits and/or the employees earns $1.50/hour in tips. $12/hour if not.
- $15.35 as of January 1, 2017
- $15.24 as of January 1, 2016
- $15.24 as of January 1, 2015
- $10.35 per hour on February 1, 2016 (the same effective date as the Paid Leave Ordinance passed in January 2015)
- $11.15 per hour on January 1, 2017
- $12 per hour on January 1, 2018
- Adjusted annually by the rate of inflation beginning January 1, 2019
Most hourly workers are entitled to be paid overtime at a rate of at least one and one-half times the worker’s regular hourly rate for hours worked over 40 during a 7-day work week. Comp Time While Washington state employment law allows a worker to agree to receive time off at a later date instead of being paid overtime (“comp time”), federal law does not comp time to be given by private employers. Overtime Exemptions The following are some of the employees who are exempt from the overtime regulations under Washington state law:
- Farm/ Ranch/Agricultural workers
- Casual Labor in/at private residences such as babysitting or yard work
- Fire and forest protection employees
- Newspaper venders / carriers
- Seasonal agricultural fair employees as long as they don’t work more than 14 days per year
- Employees who sleep or reside at their place of employment (Federal law may be different than state law).
- Seaman and Washington State ferry crews
- Employees a youth camps
- Inmates, residents or patients of public detention, treatment or rehabilitation facilities
- Elected or appointed public positions
- Movie Projectionists
- Air carrier employees
- Executive, Administrative, Professional, Computer Professional and Outside Sales
- Commissioned Salespeople that sell cars, trucks, farm implements, recreational vehicles and manufactured housing as long as they receive at least one and one-half the minimum wage for all hours worked.
- Retail / Service Employees if more than half of their wages per week is commissions.
- Truck / Bus Drivers if the company has gotten approval from the Department of Labor & Industries for a “reasonably equivalent” plan
- Firefighters / Police Officers if they work certain tours of duty
The Washington Minimum Wage Increase, Initiative 1433, was approved on 11/8/2016. Along with increasing the minimum wage to $13.50 per hour by 2020, it also mandated that employers offer paid sick leave. Per the Initiative, beginning on January 1, 2018, employers would be required to provide paid sick leave to employees covered by the Minimum Wage Act. Employees would earn 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. Sick leave must be paid out at the higher of the employee’s pay rate or the new minimum wage. Employers must allow employees to use paid sick leave after the first 90 days of employment. Sick leave could be used to meet an employee’s own medical needs or to care for a family member’s medical needs. Please see this news release from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries for further details. In addition, four cities in Washington have adopted paid sick leave laws: Seattle, SeaTac, Tacoma, and Spokane. SEATTLE – Paid Sick & Safe Time (PSST) – applies to almost employees working within Seattle city limits.
- Small (Tier 1) Employer – Full Time Equivalents: 5–49. Employees accrue 1 hour of PSST per 40 hours worked.
- Medium (Tier 2) Employer – Full Time Equivalents: 50–249. Employees accrue 1 hour of PSST per 40 hours worked.
- Large (Tier 3) Employer – Full Time Equivalents: 250 or more. Employees accrue 1 hour of PSST per 30 hours worked.
Holiday pay is not required under Washington state labor laws.
While a business may choose to pay employees overtime for working on a holiday, it is not required by law. If employees are paid for hours not worked on a holiday, these hours are not considered time worked when determining overtime hours for the work week.
Vacation pay is not required under Washington state employment laws.
Meal Breaks / Rest Periods
Rest Periods – A paid rest break of at least 10 minutes is required for each 4 hours worked. The rest period must be provided no later than the end of the 3rd hour of the shift.
Meal Periods – If an employee works more than 5 hour in a shift, they must be allowed at least a 30 minute meal period. The meal period cannot start prior to 2 hours into the shift or later than 5 hours into the shift. This meal period does not have to be paid if the employee is relieved of all duties for the entire period.
The following deductions can be made from an employee’s paycheck while employed or from their final paycheck:
- State and federal taxes
- Deductions agreed to by the employee in advance such as personal loans and advances
- Medical costs when the employees agrees to these deductions
- Court-ordered garnishments
- Cash drawer shortages – subject to certain conditions
- Breakage, damage or loss of equipment if caused by the employee’s dishonest or willful act
- Bad checks or credit card charges accepted by the employee if the business has established acceptance policies prior to the incident
- Worker theft but the business must file a police report
- Deductions that were agreed to at the time of termination
Reporting Time pay / Show-up Pay
Washington employment laws do not require employees to be paid if they report for their shift but are sent home because they are not needed.
Employees must be paid at least once per month on regularly established paydays. Final paychecks are due on the next regularly scheduled payday regardless of whether the employee was fired or quit.
Statute of Limitations
Under Washington state labor laws, employees may recover unpaid overtime for three years prior to the filing of a lawsuit.
Can employees be required to work overtime?
- Yes. (There is an exception for registered nurses and licensed practical nurses).
- No. However, if an employee is non-exempt, then they must be paid overtime pay if they are required to work more than 40 hours per workweek. There are limits for employees under 18.
- No, employees cannot waive their right to overtime pay.
- No, overtime pay is only required for working more than 40 hours in a workweek.
- Yes. Employer may change an employee’s schedule at any time, with or without notice.
- Employers must keep employee contact information, occupation, daily and weekly hours, rates of pay, total wages earned, deductions and net pay for the pay periods for 3 years. When requested, these records must be made available to an employee in a reasonable amount of time.
- There is no state law that requires an employer to pay these benefits upon termination but if the employer promises to pay these benefits and does not, an employee can sue to recover these. Ballot Initiative 1433, passed on 11/8/16, does not require employers to pay out any unused sick leave at the end of employment.
- Yes, you can be required to stay on site during your rest period and during paid meal breaks. If your break is unpaid, you can only be required to stay on site if you are completely relieved of duty and will never be called back to work during the meal period.
- No. However, it is advisable to turn these items in promptly to avoid disputes.