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Non-Agricultural Employers May Use Workweek Averaging to Satisfy State Minimum Wage Obligations in Washington

On September 5, 2019, the Washington Supreme Court confirmed that non-agricultural employers may use a workweek averaging methodology to satisfy the Washington Minimum Wage Act in Valerie Sampson et al v. Knight Transportation Inc. et al. In other words, non-agricultural employers can satisfy their state minimum wage obligations by showing that an employee’s total wages for a workweek, when divided by the total hours worked during that week, results in a figure that is equal to or greater than the state minimum wage.

Latest Legal Developments For Washington Employers, 2019 Edition

As predicted, Washington’s legislature has been busy over the past few months passing new laws that directly impact how employers conduct business. There have also been several key court decisions impacting workplace law of which all employers should be aware. What happened? We’ve put together summaries of the more significant recent developments for you below.

Washington State Takes on the Arbitration of Harassment and Discrimination Claims

Like many other states, Washington recently adopted legislation seemingly preventing the arbitration of harassment and discrimination claims in direct response to the #MeToo movement.

Washington Weighs in on Obesity Discrimination

The state of Washington has weighed in on the debate as to whether obesity is a disability under disability discrimination laws. In Taylor v. Burlington Northern Railroad Holdings Inc., a case that wound its way through the courts for nine years, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit certified this question to the Washington Supreme Court: “Under what circumstances, if any, does obesity qualify as an ‘impairment’ under the [WLAD]?” The Washington Supreme Court responded by holding that obesity is always an impairment under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) because it is a “’physiological disorder, or condition’ that affects multiple body systems listed in the statute.” Therefore, an employer who takes employment action against an individual because the employer perceives the individual to be obese, may run afoul of the WLAD.

Washington State Supreme Court Holds State Law Bars Discrimination Based on Obesity

Washington’s highest court has ruled that obesity is always an “impairment” under Washington’s Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), regardless of whether obesity is related to some other medical condition. Accordingly, treating job applicants or employees adversely based on their actual or perceived obesity is unlawful disability discrimination unless the obesity conflicts with a bona fide occupational qualification or prevents the worker from properly performing the job. The court did not define obesity, however, and did not address whether an employer’s knowledge of an individual’s weight or body mass index alone can trigger a duty to consider reasonable accommodation.

Washington State Pushes Back First Reporting Deadline for Paid Family and Medical Leave Law

The Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) has pushed back the first reporting deadline under this new law to August 31, 2019. By that date, all Washington employers must file reports about their employees, including their wages and associated hours worked during the first two quarters of 2019.

Obesity Qualifies as Disability, Washington Supreme Court Rules

It is illegal to refuse to hire qualified potential employees because the employer perceives them to be obese, the Washington Supreme Court has ruled. After a federal court in Seattle dismissed the case, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had asked Washington's highest court to resolve the issue because it involved a matter of state law.

Proposed Washington State Regulations Would Radically Increase the Minimum Exempt Salary Rate

On June 5, 2019, the Washington Department of Labor & Industries issued proposed amendments to Washington State’s white-collar overtime exemption regulations.

Washington State Proposes Raising Minimum Salary for Overtime-Exempt Workers

Starting next summer, the minimum annual salary for most overtime-exempt employees in Washington state will likely more than double for many employers.

Washington State Buttons Up Two New Laws Addressing Worker Harassment and Assault in Hospitality and Adult Entertainment Industries

Washington Governor Jay Inslee recently signed two bills addressing sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. Both bills require covered hospitality employers and adult entertainment establishments to provide panic buttons for covered workers.