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Washington State Labor Laws

Below 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.

What’s in This Article

a table of contents

Minimum Wage

On November 8, 2016, voters passed Initiative 1433 which increased the minimum wage in stages from 2017 to 2020 as noted below.  Beginning 2021, the minimum wage will be adjusted based on Consumer Price Index.

  • January 1, 2021 $13.69
  • January 1, 2020 $13.50
  • January 1, 2019 $12.00
  • January 1, 2018 $11.50
  • January 1, 2017 $11.00

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

In addition, the following cities have enacted minimum wage laws:

SEATTLE Minimum Wage

For employees working within the city limits:

Large Employers (more than 500 employees):

  • For 2021: $16.39/hour
  • For 2020: $16.39/hour
  • For 2019: $16/hour
  • For 2018: $15/hour if employer pays toward medical benefits. $15.45/hour if not.
  • For 2017: $13.50/hour if employer pays toward medical benefits. $15/hour if not.
  • For 2016: $12.50/hour if employer pays toward medical benefits. $13/hour if not.

Small Employers (500 or less employees):

  • For 2021: $15.00/hour if employer pays towards medical benefits and/or the employees earns tips. $16.69/hour if not.
  • For 2020: $13.50/hour if employer pays towards medical benefits and/or the employees earns tips. $15.75/hour if not.
  • For 2019: $12.00/hour if employer pays towards medical benefits and/or the employees earns tips. $15/hour if not.
  • For 2018: $11.50/hour if employer pays towards medical benefits and/or the employees earns tips. $14/hour if not.
  • For 2017: $11/hour if employer pays towards medical benefits and/or the employees earns tips. $13/hour if not.
  • For 2016: $10.50/hour if employer pays towards medical benefits and/or the employees earns tips. $12/hour if not.

See the Seattle Office of Labor Standards for more information.

SEATAC Minimum Wage

Minimum Employment Standards Ordinance for Hospitality and Transportation Industry Employers within the City

  • For 2021: $16.57/ hour
  • For 2020: $16.34/ hour
  • For 2019: $16.09/ hour
  • For 2018: $15.64/ hour
  • For 2017: $15.34/ hour
  • For 2016: $15.24 / hour
  • For 2015: $15.24/ hour

See the City of SeaTac website for more information.

TACOMA Minimum Wage

For employees working within the city limits:

  • For 2020 and thereafter: Employers must pay the higher state minimum wage
  • For 2019: $12.35/ hour
      • Adjusted annually by the rate of inflation beginning January 1, 2019
  • For 2018: $12.00/ hour
  • For 2017: $11.15/ hour
  • For 2016: $10.35/ hour (Effective February 1, 2016, the same effective date as the Paid Leave Ordinance passed in January 2015)

See the City of Tacoma website for more information.

Wage Laws for Tipped Employees

Tipped employees must be paid the full minimum wage rate. Employers are not allowed to use tips as a credit against minimum wage.

Overtime Pay Laws in Washington State

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:

  • Executive, Administrative, Professional, Computer Professional and Outside Sales
  • 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
  • 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
  • Volunteers
  • Air carrier employees

The following employees are required to be paid overtime but may be paid under an alternate method:

  • 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.
  • Firefighters / Police Officers if they work certain tours of duty
  • Truck / Bus Drivers if the company has gotten approval from the Department of Labor & Industries for a “reasonably equivalent” plan

As of July 1, 2020, the state law will incrementally increase the minimum salary required for the Executive, Administrative, Professional, and Computer-related exemptions each year until it reaches 2.5 times the minimum wage in 2028.  The minimum hourly pay required for computer professionals will also increase as noted below.

To calculate the minimum weekly salary for these exemptions, multiply minimum wage x 40 hours by the factor shown below:

For hourly computer professionals, minimum pay will increase as noted below:

Due to the recent (1/1/20) increase in the federal salary requirements for exempt employees, the federal salary requirement of $684 per week is higher than the Washington state requirement of $675 per week – until January 1, 2021. Employers are required to follow whichever law is more favorable to workers. Therefore, starting January 2021, employers should switch to the Washington state minimum salary amounts of $827 per week for small employers and $965 per week for large employers, in order to maintain the exempt status of white-collar workers. If workers’ salaries are not increased, the exemption will be lost and they will be entitled to receive overtime pay.

The Specifics on overtime for truck drivers in Washington.

The compensation system under which a truck or bus driver subject to the provisions of the Federal Motor Carrier Act is paid shall include overtime pay at least reasonably equivalent to that required by RCW 49.46.130 for working in excess of forty hours a week. To meet this requirement, an employer may, with notice to a truck or bus driver subject to the provisions of the Federal Motor Carrier Act, establish a rate of pay that is not on an hourly basis and that includes in the rate of pay compensation for overtime.
An employer shall substantiate any deviation from payment on an hourly basis by using the following formula or an alternative formula that, at a minimum, compensates hours worked in excess of forty hours per week at an overtime rate of pay and distributes the projected overtime pay over the average number of hours projected to be worked.
 
 
A truck driver is paid on a mileage basis for a two hundred thirty mile trip performed about ten times a week. The base rate of pay is twenty cents a mile. The overtime rate of pay is thirty cents a mile. The average length of the trip is four and one-half hours.
 
 
2300 mi. per week divided by 45 hours per week = 51.1 miles per hour
 
 
 
(a)   
51.1 miles/hour times 40 hours times .20/ mile = $408.80
 
(b)   
51.1 miles/hour times 5 hours = 255.5 miles
 
(c)   
255.5 miles times .30/mile = $76.65
 
(d)   
$408.80 plus $76.65 = $485.45 divided by 2300 miles = 21.1 cents mile

Nurses’ Overtime Law

RN’s and LPNs who work in certain facilities and are paid on an hourly basis cannot be required to work over the established schedules or agreed-upon work week.

Paid Sick Leave

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.

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 all 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.

See the Seattle Office of Labor Standards for more information.

SEATAC – Earned Sick and Safe Leave (ESSL)

  • Employees working for hospitality or transportation employers within the City must earn at least 1 hour of paid sick and safe time for every 40 hours worked. 
  • Employees are entitled to use any accrued hours as soon as hours have accrued.

See the City of SeaTac website for more information.

TACOMA – Paid Leave

applies to all employees working within Tacoma city limits for 80 hours or more in a calendar year.

  • As of February 1, 2016, employers must provide up to 24 hours of paid leave per year.
  • All employees earn one hour for every 40 hours worked within Tacoma, up to 24 hours within a calendar year.
  • Employees may carry forward up to 24 hours of unused paid leave into the next year.

See the City of Tacoma website for more information.

SPOKANE – Earned Sick and Safe Leave (ESSL)

Applies to employers with 1 or more employees who physically work more than 240 hour within Spokane, unless otherwise excluded. See City of Spokane website for excluded employers.

  • Beginning January 1, 2017, each employee who is covered by the ordinance will earn 1 hour of paid leave for every 30 hours they work.
  • Employers can institute a probationary period of up to 90 days before an employee can use sick leave, although, employees start to accrue sick leave on their first day. 
  • Employees of companies with less than 10 employees can use 24 hours of earned sick and safe leave in a year.
  • Employees of companies with 10 or more employees can use 40 hours of earned sick and safe leave in a year.

Holiday Pay

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

Vacation pay is not required under Washington state employment laws.

Meal Breaks / Rest Periods

Washington State Work Break Laws - 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 hours 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.

For further information on meal and rest breaks, see this page.

Deductions

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 employee agrees to these deductions
  • Court-ordered garnishments

 

The following deductions can be made from the final paycheck only if there is an agreement between the employee and employer. They cannot reduce the employee’s hourly wage below minimum wage and can only apply to the final pay period:

  • 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

No deduction may be made for unemployment compensation.

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.

Pay Period

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.

Other Questions

  • 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.