On December 11, 2019, the Washington Department of Labor & Industries announced its final rule amending Washington State’s white collar overtime exemption regulations. If not overridden by the Legislature or successfully challenged in court, the rule will radically increase the pay rates necessary to qualify for the white collar exemptions in Washington State.
Articles Discussing Washington State Wage & Hour Laws.
The legal challenge to the SeaTac Minimum Employment Standard for Hospitality and Transportation Industry Employers (“SeaTac Ordinance”) was dealt a possibly lethal blow as the Washington Supreme Court reversed the King County Superior Court’s ruling that the Ordinance does not apply to businesses operating within the Port of Seattle. After the SeaTac Ordinance was passed in 2013, legal challenges began. In December 2013, King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas ruled that the Ordinance was invalid as to “employers and employees conducting business within the boundaries of SeaTac International Airport.”
The expansive interpretation of meal and rest break regulations continues in Washington State, as the state’s highest court ruled in Demetrio v. Sakuma Brothers Farms, Inc., Case No. 90932-6 (Wash. Sup. Ct. July 16, 2015), that agricultural piece-rate workers are entitled to separate paid rest breaks. The court reasoned that hourly workers remain “on the clock” during rest breaks, and thus piece-rate workers should receive the same treatment.
The Washington Supreme Court has ruled that employers must provide agricultural piece rate workers with extra compensation for their rest periods, rejecting the employer’s argument that its piece rate already included compensation for the required rest periods. Demetrio v. Sakuma Bros. Farms, Inc., 2015 Wash. LEXIS 807 (Wash. July 16, 2015).
Like all compensation methods, piece rate compensation plans – under which an employee is compensated based on the number of “pieces” he or she generates or completes – must be analyzed for wage-and-hour compliance. For example, under federal law, minimum wage generally is due for all hours worked, and there are recordkeeping obligations, although some piece rate plans may qualify for the section 7(i) overtime exemption. Under state law, employers also must analyze whether piece rate employees’ compensation meets all applicable requirements, which supplement FLSA requirements for most employers. A new decision from Washington state’s highest court reinforces this last principle and imposes further payment obligations on certain Washington employers. Demetrio v. Sakuma Bros. Farms, Inc., 2015 Wash. LEXIS 807 (Wash. July 16, 2015).
Effective April 1, 2015, a new Wage Theft Ordinance imposes specific wage and tip notice requirements on employers in the City of Seattle.1 The Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR) is granted power to investigate complaints, and employers who violate the Ordinance are subject to orders to pay wages and tips, as well as civil penalties.
In a matter of first impression, the Washington Supreme Court has held that the “joint employer doctrine” is a viable theory under Washington’s Minimum Wage Act (WMWA), and adopted the Fair Labor Standards Act’s economic reality test to determine whether one or more entities are joint employers for purposes of minimum wage and/or overtime liability. This ruling extends the joint employer doctrine to Washington opt-out class actions under the WMWA, and potentially subjects entities to broader liability for the pay practices of their subcontractors.
Effective January 1, 2014, as a result of an Ordinance passed by the citizens of the City of SeaTac, Washington,1 certain transportation and hospitality employers in the City must provide their nonsupervisory employees working within the City limits a minimum wage of $15.00 per hour and paid sick and safe leave, among other benefits.
Washington’s highest court has ruled that missed paid rest breaks count as “hours worked” that trigger overtime obligations for employers. According to the court, employers must add missed rest break time to their employees’ hours actually worked, and pay an overtime premium for any resulting hours over 40 in a workweek. Thus, an employee who works 40 hours in a workweek and misses a required 10-minute paid rest break is owed compensation at the overtime rate of one and one half times the regular rate for the missed 10-minute rest break.
A Washington state appeals court has ruled that employees who miss state-mandated rest breaks during their regular 40-hour workweek assignments are not entitled to overtime compensation for the missed rest breaks. The Court held that the plaintiff-nurses were entitled only to straight-time compensation under the Washington Minimum Wage Act because they did not work in excess of 40 hours during the week they missed a rest break. The break periods were included in, and a part of, their 40-hour week. Washington State Nursesâ€™ Assn. v. Sacred Heart Med. Ctr., No. 29366-1-III (Wash. Ct. App. Aug. 25, 2011).
Washington’s minimum wage, currently the highest in the nation, will increase to $8.67 an hour effective January 1, 2011, an increase of 12 cents over the 2010 rate. The state minimum wage applies to agricultural and non-agricultural jobs in Washington, including tipped employees, as Washington’s minimum wage law does not recognize a tip credit.