Washington Overtime Laws & Wages Attorney

An aerial picture of the Seatle, Washington city

If you are an employee in Washington State, you have the right to a minimum wage that is higher than that set by the federal government. Moreover, some cities have enacted their own minimum wages that are more generous than the state’s rate. Washington also has wage and hour rules that cover overtime, paid sick leave, and more. Do you have concerns over whether your rights to fair pay have been violated? Contact The Lore Law Firm to learn more.

Minimum Wage In Washington State

The statewide minimum wage in Washington is $14.49 per hour as of January 1, 2022. Starting on January 1, 2023, the rate increases to $15.74/hour.

Some local municipalities have enacted their own minimum wage laws that are more generous. Employees located in the following cities, for example, have the right to a higher minimum wage:

Seattle

  • Large employers (501+ employees) must pay employees $17.27/hour (2022). This rate increases to $18.69/hour starting on January 1, 2023.
  • Small employers (with 500 or fewer employees) have the option to pay $15.75 per hour as long as the employee either earns at least $1.52/hour in tips and/or the employer pays at least $1.52/hour toward medical benefits. This rate increases to $16.50 per hour provided the employee earns $2.19/hour in tips and/or the employer pays $2.19/hour toward medical benefits.

SeaTac

$17.54/hour (2022) for hospitality and transportation employees. This rate increases to $19.06/hour in 2023.

Other cities may enact their own rates in the future. Be sure to check your city’s official website to find out if the minimum wage where you live is higher than the state’s rate.

Requirements For Tipped Employees In Washington

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

Overtime Pay Laws In Washington

Most hourly employees are entitled to be paid overtime at a rate of at least 1.5 times the worker’s regular hourly rate (time and a half) for hours worked over 40 during a 7-day work week. This rule applies to all employers, regardless of size. Employees cannot waive their right to overtime pay. Collective bargaining agreements and employers can always provide for more generous overtime pay.

Employers can generally require their employees to work overtime, with the exception of registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs).

“Comp Time” As An Alternative To Overtime

Under federal law, only public employees are eligible for time off instead of being paid overtime. This is known as comp time or exchange time. The time off must be credited at the rate of at least 1.5 hours of time off for each hour of overtime worked. This option is at the employee’s discretion, meaning the employer cannot require a worker to take comp time. Private employers are not allowed to enter into agreements that provide comp-time in lieu of overtime pay. 

Exemptions To Washington’s Overtime Law

There are a number of employees who are exempt from the state’s overtime rules. They include:

  • Executive, administrative, and professional employees
  • Computer professionals
  • Outside sales employees
  • Farm, ranch, and agricultural workers (see note below regarding agricultural workers)
  • Casual domestic labor such as babysitting or yard work
  • Fire and forest protection employees
  • Newspaper vendors and carriers
  • Seasonal agricultural fair employees (provided they don’t work more than 14 days per year)
  • Seamen
  • Washington State ferry crews
  • Employees at youth camps
  • Any resident, inmate, or patient of a state, county, or municipal correctional, detention, treatment or rehabilitative institution
  • Elected or appointed public positions
  • Volunteers
  • Air carrier employees

Changes are in the process of being implemented for agricultural workers. During this transition period, and starting January 1, 2022, agricultural workers will be eligible for overtime compensation for hours worked over 55 during a workweek. Starting January 1, 2023, the threshold lowers to all hours worked over 48 per workweek. Starting January 1, 2024, it further lowers to all hours worked over 40 per workweek.

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

  • Commission employees of retail or service establishments, if more than half of their wages per week is commissions
  • Commissioned salespeople that sell cars, trucks, farm implements, recreational vehicles, campers, trailers, and manufactured housing, if they receive at least one and one-half the minimum wage for all hours worked
  • Firefighters and police officers, if they work certain hours
  • Truck and bus drivers, if the company has gotten approval from the Washington Department of Labor & Industries for a “reasonably equivalent” plan

Thanks to a law that went into effect on July 1, 2020, certain executive, administrative, professional, and computer-related employees must be paid a minimum salary to be exempt from overtime requirements. These rates change from year to year and vary with the size of the employer.

The following table may be used to calculate the minimum weekly salary for executive, administrative, and professional employee exemptions, taking into account the year and size of the employer:

  7/1/201/1/211/1/221/1/231/1/241/1/251/1/261/1/271/1/28
1-50 employeesMultiply min wage by…1.251.51.751.75222.252.252.5
51+ employeesMultiply min wage by…1.251.751.75222.252.252.52.5

The following is the pay rate phase-in schedule for exempt computer professionals who are paid by the hour. The threshold is a multiplier of the state minimum wage. Computer professionals paid on a salary basis have a different phase-in schedule.

 7/1/201/1/211/1/22
1-50 employeesNo change (Stays at $27.63/hour)2.75 x minimum wage3.5 x minimum wage
51+ employees2.75 x minimum wage3.5 x minimum wage3.5 x minimum wage

Special Overtime Rules For Truck And Bus Drivers

Truck and bus drivers who are subject to the provisions of the Federal Motor Carrier Act are paid according to a unique schedule. Their pay shall include overtime pay at least reasonably equivalent to that required by Section 49.46.130 of the Washington State Code for working in excess of forty hours a week.

To meet this requirement, an employer may, with notice to a truck or bus driver, and 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.

Take, for example, a truck driver who is paid on a mileage basis for a 230-mile trip performed about ten times a week (2300 miles total). The base rate of pay is 20 cents a mile. The overtime rate of pay is 30 cents a mile. The average length of the trip is 4.5 hours.

2300 miles per week divided by 45 hours per week = 51.1 miles per hour

(a) 51.1 miles/hour times 40 hours times $0.20/mile = $408.80

(b) 51.1 miles/hour times 5 hours = 255.5 miles

(c) 255.5 miles times $0.30/mile = $76.65

(d) $408.80 + $76.65 = $485.45 divided by 2300 miles = 21.1 cents mile

Paid Sick Leave In Washington

Employees in Washington must earn at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours they work. Employers may provide more leave if they choose. 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 their own paid sick leave laws: Seattle, SeaTac, Tacoma, and Spokane. Check with each city’s website for more details on how much sick leave you are entitled to.

Holiday And Vacation Pay For Washington Workers

Holiday pay is not required under Washington state wage and hour laws. While a business may choose to pay employees overtime for working on a holiday, it doesn’t have to. 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 also not required under Washington state wage and hour laws.

Meal Breaks And Rest Periods

All workers must receive a 30-minute meal period for every 5 hours worked. If the employee works more than 11 hours in a day, he or she must be given a second meal period. The meal break is unpaid as long as the employee is relieved of all work duties during the period.

Additionally, employees are entitled to a paid rest break of at least 10 minutes for every 4 hours worked. The rest period must be provided no later than the end of the third hour of the shift. Neither the employee nor the employer may waive this right.

Deductions From Employee Paychecks

The following deductions can be made from an employee’s paycheck, even if the deduction reduces the employee’s pay below minimum wage:

  • Deductions required by state or federal law (e.g. federal income taxes, Medicare, workers’ compensation, etc.)
  • Court-ordered wage garnishments
  • Deductions agreed to by the employee in advance (e.g. personal loans and advances)
  • Deductions for medical, surgical, or hospital care or service

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

  • 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, provided the business has filed a police report

No Requirement For Reporting Time Pay

Washington wage and hour laws do not require employees to be paid if they report for their shift but are sent home because they are not needed. This is known as reporting time pay.

Required Pay Periods

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.

Employers may require their employees to sign up for direct deposit, provided this does not impose a cost on the employee. Employers may also offer to pay their employees using debit or prepaid payroll cards.

How Does Washington State Define “Hours Worked”?

Washington employers must pay their employees for all hours worked. Hours worked includes all time:

  • During which you are required to be at a designated work location
  • During which you are required to be on duty or to be at a designated work site
  • Spent traveling as part of your job during normal working hours
  • During which you are permitted to do work

Some examples of unpaid work that should be counted as paid time may include:

  • Waiting to undergo, and actually undergoing, security screenings or bag checks
  • Waiting to undergo, and actually undergoing, Covid-19 screenings (e.g. tests and temperature checks)
  • Computer boot up, sign in, and download time spent prior to being “clocked in” at work
  • “Clocking out” before spending time shutting down programs and logging out
  • Waiting on assignments or being told when to begin, while on work premises
  • Receiving or sharing work-related information (pre- or post-shift “relief time”)
  • Walking, riding, and traveling to and from the actual place of work (e.g. when the employee is required to park in a remote lot and take a bus)
  • Changing in and out of required work clothes

Statute of Limitations For Wage And Hour Complaints

If your wage and hour rights were violated, you must take legal action within a certain amount of time. This is known as the statute of limitations. Failure to meet this deadline could permanently bar you from the recovery of unpaid wages.

In Washington, employees have three years to recover back pay if their employer has violated their minimum wage, overtime, or related wage and hour rights. They may also win attorney’s fees and court costs.

Contact Our Washington Wage And Hour Attorney

We strongly recommend that employees who believe they have been cheated out of their fair pay take prompt action to protect their rights, long before the three-year statute of limitations expires. It is much easier to recall details, obtain documents, and secure valuable witness testimony if you file your claim sooner rather than later. 

Do you have questions about your wage and hour rights? Unsure if your employer has paid you completely for your work? Reach out to The Lore Law Firm today.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do if I believe I am a victim of wage theft in Washington?

If you believe that you have been the victim of wage theft while working in Washington state, you should first look at your payroll records (pay stubs, time sheets, etc.) to see if they show the issue you are concerned about. You may also want to ask HR or payroll department to explain the pay practice you have questions about. If this does not resolve your concerns about how your overtime pay is being handled, you should contact an overtime lawyer who represents workers in overtime pay claims to help you determine if your overtime pay rights have been violated.

When Can I Sue for Unpaid Overtime Wages in Washington?

If you work in the state of Washington and believe that you have been denied the overtime wages you are entitled to, you can file a lawsuit to recover your unpaid back wages for the past 2-3 years, plus liquidated (double) damages and attorney’s fees. Most overtime lawsuits are taken on a contingent fee basis, meaning there are no out of pocket costs to hire a lawyer and there are no fees unless and until a recovery is obtained.

Are there limitations with overtime laws in Washington?

The overtime pay laws do place a time limit on filing a claim for unpaid back wages (a/k/a statute of limitations). In most cases, back pay can only be recovered for a period of 2-3 years preceding the filing of a lawsuit in Washington.

Can employees be required to work overtime?

Yes. (There is an exception for registered nurses and licensed practical nurses).

Is there a limit on how many hours an employee can be required to work?

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.

Can I agree to waive overtime pay?

No, employees cannot waive their right to overtime pay.

Is overtime required for working more than 8 hours in a day?

No, overtime pay is only required for working more than 40 hours in a workweek.

Can my employer change my work schedule?

Yes. Employer may change an employee’s schedule at any time, with or without notice.

What records are my employer required to keep and can I get copies?

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.

Am I entitled to be paid for unused vacation, holiday or sick leave when I leave my job?

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.

Can I be required to stay on site while on my meal or rest break?

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.

Can my employer hold my final check until I turn in uniforms or keys?

No. However, it is advisable to turn these items in promptly to avoid disputes.