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Filing a Wage and Hour Claim - Washington

Does Washington have state overtime laws that are different from federal law?

Like federal law, Washington law requires that employees be paid at one and one half times their normal rate of pay for any hours worked over 40 in any given workweek of 168 hours (7 days). Those employees not covered by the state's minimum wage law are also not covered by the state's overtime provisions (see #2 below). In addition, the following employees who are covered by the state's minimum wage law are not covered by the state's overtime law:

  • Employees who request compensation time instead of overtime pay
  • Seamen (on any vessel)
  • Seasonal employees of concessions and recreational establishments at agricultural fairs who do not work more than 14 days per year
  • Employees employed as motion picture projectionists, provided that they are covered by a contract or collective bargaining agreement regulating their hours and overtime
  • Certain truck and bus drivers
  • Agricultural workers
  • Employees engaged in commercial canning, freezing, or processing
  • Employees involved in raising, harvesting, or processing oysters or any agricultural or horticultural commodity after its delivery to a terminal market for distribution for consumption
  • Employees in any industry in which federal law provides for an overtime payment based on a work week other than forty hours; those employees are covered under federal law by incorporation of state law, even if federal law would not otherwise apply to them for technical reasons.
  • Certain airline employees
  • Employees of retail or service establishment paid on commission if their regular rate of pay is one and one half times the minimum wage and more than half of their compensation in a given month comes from commissions on goods or services
  • Commissioned salespeople primarily engaged in the business of selling automobiles, trucks, recreational vessels, recreational vessel trailers, recreational vehicle trailers, recreational campers, manufactured housing, or farm implements to ultimate purchasers (with some exceptions based on rate of pay)

Does Washington have a minimum wage that is different from federal law?

Washington's minimum wage is $12.00 per hour, which is higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25. The minimum wage is adjusted on January 1 of each year based on changes in the consumer price index. This minimum wage applies to all employees over 15; employees who are 14 or 15 may be paid 85% of the minimum wage.

The following employees are not covered by the state's minimum wage requirement (which does not prevent them from being covered by the federal requirement):

  • Hand harvest laborers paid on a piece-rate basis in an operation in which this is customary, who commute daily from their permanent residence to the farm where they work, and who have been employed in agriculture less than thirteen weeks during the preceding calendar year.
  • Employees employed in casual labor in or about a private home, unless that labor is performed in the course of the employer's trade, business, or profession
  • Bona fide executive, administrative, or professional employees
  • Outside salespersons
  • Volunteers for educational, charitable, religious, state or local government bodies or agencies, or nonprofit organizations where there is no employer-employee relationship
  • Full-time employees of state or local government bodies when those employees are providing voluntary services (they receive minimum wage otherwise)
  • Newspaper vendors and carriers
  • Certain employees involved in the transportation of people or goods
  • Employees engaged in forest protection and fire prevention activities
  • Employees of charitable institutions charged with child care responsibilities engaged primarily in the development of character or citizenship or promoting health or physical fitness or providing or sponsoring recreational opportunities or facilities for young people or members of the US armed forces
  • Employees who reside or sleep at their place of employment and who spend a substantial part of their time on call, not engaged in performance of active duties
  • Residents, inmates, and patients of state, county, and municipal correctional, detention, treatment or rehabilitative institutions
  • Elected and appointed officials of the state, counties, cities, towns, municipal corporations, quasi municipal corporations, political subdivisions or an of their instrumentalities, as well as employees of the state legislature
  • Vessel operating crewmembers of the Washington state ferries
  • Seamen on non-American vessels

Employers may apply for authorization to pay a sub-minimum wage of generally not less than 75 percent of the normal minimum wage to disabled workers, learners, student learners, apprentices, or student workers.

Tips may not be counted against the minimum wage. In other words, employers must pay their tipped employees $12.00 per hour, regardless of how much the employees make in tips. Meals and lodging also may not be credited against the minimum wage.

Do any cities or counties in Washington have a minimum wage that is different from state or federal law?

Yes. Seattle has a minimum wage of $16.00 per hour for large employers with more than 500 employees, and $15.00 per hour for small employers with 500 or fewer employees. If a small employer contributes to an individual employee's medical benefits then the minimum wage may be reduced to $12.00 per hour. In January 2020 the minimum wage in Seattle will increase to $15.75 for small employers who do not cover medical benefits and to $13.50 for small employers who do cover medical benefits. 

Tacoma has a minimum wage of $12.35 per hour as of January 1, 2019.

Does Washington have meal and rest break requirements, unlike federal law?

Unlike federal law, Washington law requires employers to provide rest breaks to employees. Workers must be allowed a paid rest break of at least 10 minutes for each 4 hours worked; that rest period must be allowed no later than the end of the third hour of the shift. If a worker works more than five hours in one shift, he or she must be allowed at least a 30-minute meal period; the meal period must take place at least two hours into the shift and no later than five hours after the beginning of the shift. The meal break does not have to be paid if the worker is free from all duties during the meal period. For more detailed information on breaks, visit http://www.lni.wa.gov/WorkplaceRights/Wages/HoursBreaks/Breaks/default.asp. Agricultural workers have similar break provisions. See http://www.lni.wa.gov/WorkplaceRights/Agriculture/Breaks/default.asp.

How do I file a wage/hour or labor standards claim in Washington?

If your employer owes you wages, you can file a "Workplace Rights Complaint" form with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. The form can be found at http://www.lni.wa.gov/forms/pdf/700027af.pdf. The Department will investigate your claim, attempt to help you get paid, and, if that is not successful, may file a lawsuit on your behalf to recover the money you are owed.

What are my time deadlines?

Do not delay in contacting the Department to file a complaint. There are strict time limits in which charges of wage-and-hour violations must be filed. The statute of limitations for cases regarding minimum wage, overtime, and oral contracts is three years (six years for written contracts), and the Department must investigate your claim and give notice to the employer. If you file your claim after the statute of limitations has run or just before it expires, the Department will be unable to assist you. As you might have other legal claims with shorter deadlines, do not wait to file your claim. You may wish to consult with an attorney prior to filing your claim, if possible. Yet if you are unable to find an attorney who will assist you, it is not necessary to have an attorney to file your claim with the district and federal administrative agencies.

How can I or my attorney pursue a claim in court in Washington?

If your employer has not paid you overtime wages or the minimum wage, you can bring a private lawsuit in court instead of filing a complaint with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industry. The court may award you the wages you are owed and may require your employer to pay your litigation costs and attorneys' fees. The statue of limitations for such a claim is three years. If your employer owes you wages not in connection with overtime or the minimum wage, you can bring an action for breach of contract. If the contract was oral, the statute of limitations is three years; if it is written, the statute of limitations is six years. If you recover more than what your employer admits you are owed, the court will require your employer to pay your litigation costs and your attorneys' fees.

State Labor Agency

Washington State Department of Labor and Industries
PO Box 44000
Olympia, WA 98504-4000
Phone: 1-800-547-8367 (main line)
Phone: 1-866-219-7321 (Employment standards/workplace rights)
Phone: (360) 902-5316 (Employment standards/workplace rights)
Web: http://www.lni.wa.gov/

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