Washington

Labor Compliance Guide

Hours & Pay Regulations

Normal Working Hours

Washington minimum wage laws require employers to compensate employees for all hours worked. Hours worked is defined as all hours employers authorize or require employees to be on duty at the employers’ workplaces or at other prescribed workplaces. Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries interprets hours worked to include all an employee requested, suffered, permitted or allowed to work including all time the employer knows or has reason to know the employee is working. Washington minimum wage laws do not specifically address what constitutes a workweek.

 

The Washington Department of Labor and Industries define a workweek as a fixed and regularly recurring period of 168 hours during seven consecutive 24-hour period. The workweek may begin at any hour on any calendar day. Once an employer establishes a workweek it generally must remain fixed. An employer may change the workweek if the change is meant to be permanent and not intended to evade overtime requirements. If an employer has not specifically established a workweek, the workweek defaults to Sunday through Saturday.

 

Waiting Time

In certain circumstances, employees report for work but due to lack of customers or production, the employer may require them to wait on the premises until there is sufficient work to be performed. Waiting time is all time that employees are required or authorized to report at a designated time and to remain on the premises or at a designated work site until they may begin their shift. During this time, the employees are considered to be engaged to wait, and all hours will be considered hours worked. When a shutdown or other work stoppage occurs due to technical problems, such time spent waiting to return to work will be considered hours worked unless the employees are completely relieved from duty and can use the time effectively for their own purposes

 

Travel Time

Whether travel or commute time is compensable depends on the specific facts and circumstances of each individual employee, employer, and work week. If the travel or commute time is considered ‘hours worked’ under RCW 49.46.020 and WAC 296-126-002(8), then it is compensable and the employee must be paid for this time. These statutory and regulatory requirements cannot be waived through a collective bargaining agreement or other agreement. ‘Hours worked’ means all hours when an employee is authorized or required by the employer to be on duty on the employer’s premises or at a prescribed workplace. WAC 296-126-002(8). There are three elements to the definition of hours worked:

      • An employee is authorized or required by the employer,
      • To be on duty,
      • On the employer’s premises or at a prescribed workplace.

If any of the three elements is not satisfied, then the time spent driving in a company-provided vehicle is not considered ‘hours worked.’ The specific factors used to establish the ‘authorized or required’ element are not listed in this policy. However, the element must be met for ‘hours worked’ under the law.

Overtime

No employer shall employ any of his or her employees for a workweek longer than 40 hours unless such employee receives compensation for his or her employment in excess of the hours above specified at a rate not less than 1.5 times the regular rate at which he or she is employed.

Breaks

Employers must provide a rest period of at least 10 minutes for every four hours of working time. Rest periods must be scheduled as near as possible to the midpoint of the work period. No employee may be required to work more than three hours without a rest period. Where the nature of the work allows employees to take intermittent rest periods equivalent to 10 minutes for every four hours worked, scheduled rest periods are not required.

 

Minor Workers

Minors ages 14 and 15 must be given a 10-minute paid rest break for every two hours worked. When minors work four-hour periods, they cannot be required to work more than two hours without being given either a 10-minute rest break or a 30-minute meal period.

 

Minors ages 16 and 17 must be given a 10-minute paid rest period for every four hours worked. The rest break must be scheduled as near as possible to the middle of the work period. A minor must receive a rest period at least every three hours.

 

Agricultural Workers

Workers must be given a full 10-minute rest period in each 4-hour period of work. The rule does not state at what time the break must be scheduled.

 

Breast Feeding Break

(HB 1590) Wash. Rev. Code § 43.70.640 (2001) allows any employer, governmental and private, to use the designation of “infant-friendly” on its promotional materials if the employer follows certain requirements.

 

(2001 Wash. Laws, Chap. 88) Wash. Rev. Code § 49.60.30(g) provides that it is the right of a mother to breastfeed her child in any place of public resort, accommodations, assemblage or amusement.

 

(2009 Wash. Laws, Chap. 164, HB 1596) Wash. Rev. Code § 49.60.215 states that it is an unfair practice for any person to discriminate against a mother breastfeeding her child in any place of public resort, accommodations, assemblage or amusement.

 

As of July 28, 2019, Washington employers with 15 or more employees are required to provide reasonable break time for employees to express breast milk. Break time must be provided each time the employee needs to express breast milk and must be provided for up to two years after the child’s birth. If the employer has space in its business or worksite, it must also provide a private location, other than a bathroom, for the employee to express milk; if no private space is available, the employer must work with the employee to find a convenient location and work schedule to accommodate her needs. House Bill 1930 and Revised Code of Washington 43.10.005.

Public Holidays

Overtime or premium pay is not required for working on holidays or weekends unless those hours are in excess of 40 for the work week. Holiday pay is a benefit that may be paid at the employers’ discretion. Overtime is based on actual hours worked. Even though the total hours (work hours plus holiday, vacation, or sick pay) for the week might exceed 40, overtime pay is not required unless a worker actually worked more than 40 hours in that work week.

Annual Leave

An employer is not required to give workers paid holiday, vacation or bereavement leave. Paid leave for holidays, vacation or bereavement following the death of a close family member are considered benefits that may be paid by the business under a policy, written agreement, personal contract, oral agreement, collective bargaining agreement or other forms of agreement. There are no state laws requiring that such benefits be given.

Minimum Wage

Effective January 1, 2018, Washington’s hourly minimum wage is $11.50, an increase from the $11.00 minimum wage in effect throughout 2017.

 

Workers who are 14 and 15 years old may be paid 85 percent of the minimum wage or $9.78 an hour. The Labor Department may issue certificates to employers of learners, apprentices, messengers, and disabled individuals allowing payment of wages below the state minimum wage if this is necessary to encourage the employment of these individuals.

Tips & Gratuities

Tips may not be credited toward the minimum wage. Employers that impose an automatic service charge related to food, beverage, entertainment or porterage provided to customers must disclose to the customers the percentage of the automatic service charge that is paid or payable directly to the employee or employees serving the customer. Automatic service charges are paid in addition to employees’ hourly wages.

Meal Breaks

Employers are required to provide employees with a 30-minute meal period beginning no less than two nor more than five hours from the beginning of the shift. No employee shall be required to work more than five consecutive hours without a meal period. An additional 30-minute meal period must be provided prior to or during an overtime period of three or more hours following the normal workday. Meal periods will be on the employer’s time when the employee is required by the employer to remain on duty on the premises or at a prescribed work site in the interest of the employer.

 

Minor Workers

Minors ages 14 and 15 must not work more than four hours without being allowed a meal period of at least 30 minutes, separate from and in addition to required rest breaks. Employers must give minors a 10-minute paid rest break for every two hours worked. When minors work four-hour periods, they cannot be required to work more than two hours without being given either a 10-minute rest break or a 30-minute meal period.

 

Minors ages 16 and 17 must be allowed a meal period of at least 30 minutes starting no less than two hours nor more than five hours after the beginning of the work shift. They may not be required to work more than five hours without a meal break. Employers also must grant a 10-minute paid rest period for every four hours worked. The rest break must be scheduled as near as possible to the middle of the work period. A minor must receive a rest period at least every three hours.

Special Leave

Paid & Unpaid Leave

An employee must accrue at least 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked as an employee. Employers may provide employees with a more generous paid sick leave accrual rate. Paid sick leave for employees who are employed on or before January 1, 2018, will accrue for-all hours worked beginning on January 1, 2018.

 

Employees hired after January 1, 2018, begin accruing paid sick leave upon the commencement of his or her employment. Employers are not required to allow employees to accrue paid sick leave for hours paid when not working. Employers must allow employees to carry over at least forty hours of accrued, unused paid sick leave to the following year. An employee is authorized to use paid sick leave for the following reasons:

      • An absence resulting from an employee’s mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; to accommodate the employee’s need for medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; or an employee’s need for preventive medical care; or
      • To allow the employee to provide care for a family member with a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; care of a family member who needs medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; or care for a family member who needs preventive medical care; or
      • When the employee’s place of business has been closed by order of a public official for any health-related reason, or when an employee’s child’s school or place of care has been closed for such a reason.
Domestic Violence Leave

An employee may take reasonable leave from work, intermittent leave, or leave on a reduced leave schedule, with or without pay, to:

        • Seek legal or law enforcement assistance or remedies to ensure the health and safety of the employee or employee’s family members including, but not limited to, preparing for, or participating in, any civil or criminal legal proceeding related to or derived from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking; or
        • Seek treatment by a health care provider for physical or mental injuries caused by domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, or to attend to health care treatment for a victim who is the employee’s family member; or
        • Obtain, or assist a family member in obtaining, services from a domestic violence shelter, rape crisis center, or other social services program for relief from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking; or
        • Obtain, or assist a family member in obtaining, mental health counseling related to an incident of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, in which the employee or the employee’s family member was a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking; or
        • Participate in safety planning, temporarily or permanently relocate, or take other actions to increase the safety of the employee or employee’s family members from future domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
Military Family Leave

During a period of military conflict, an employee who is the spouse of a member of the armed forces of the United States, national guard, or reserves who has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty or has been deployed is entitled to a total of fifteen days of unpaid leave per deployment after the military spouse has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty and before deployment or when the military spouse is on leave from deployment. An employee who takes leave under this  is entitled:

          • To be restored to a position of employment in the same manner as an employee entitled to leave under chapter 49.78 RCW is restored to a position of employment, and
          • to continue benefits in the same manner as an employee entitled to leave under chapter 49.78 RCW continues benefits.
Family Care Leave

The law allows employees to use earned sick leave to care for a sick child under the age of 18 years. Employees may use available sick leave or other paid time off, including vacation time and certain disability plans, to care for a sick child or other family members covered by the law (spouses, registered domestic partners, parents – biological or adoptive parents, parents-in-law, grandparents). An employer is prohibited from discharging, demoting, or disciplining employees for exercising their rights under the law.

 

If an employee is entitled to paid leave (i.e., sick leave, vacation, holiday leave or other paid time off), the employee must also be allowed to use that paid leave to care for a sick family member. A parent may use available paid time off when their child has a“health condition that requires treatment and supervision”, which includes:

            • A medical condition requiring treatment or medication that the child cannot self-administer; or
            • A medical or mental health condition which would endanger the child’s safety or recovery without the presence of a parent or guardian; or
            • A condition warranting treatment or preventive health care such as physical, dental, optical or immunization services, when a parent must be present to authorize the treatment and when sick leave may otherwise be used for the employee’s preventative health care.
Family Spousal Leave

Effective until December 31, 2019, if spouses entitled to leave under this chapter are employed by the same employer, the aggregate number of workweeks of leave to which both may be entitled may be limited to twelve workweeks during any twelve-month period, if such leave is taken: (1) For the birth or placement of a child; or (2) for a parent’s serious health condition. Effective until December 31, 2019, an employee is entitled to a total of  12 workweeks of leave during any twelve-month period for one or more of the following:

              • Because of the birth of a child of the employee and in order to care for the child;
              • Because of the placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care;
              • In order to care for a family member of the employee, if the family member has a serious health condition; or
              • Because of a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the position of the employee.

An employee may use “sick leave or other paid time off” when a spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law, or grandparent has an emergency health condition demanding immediate action or a serious health condition that requires an overnight stay in a hospital or other medical care facility; results in a period of incapacity or treatment or recovery following inpatient care; or involves continuing treatment under the care of a healthcare services provider and includes any period of incapacity to work, attend school, or perform other regular daily activities. An employee would be entitled to use sick leave or other paid time off to care for a spouse, registered domestic partner, or child while she is incapacitated as a result of pregnancy or childbirth. This would generally include some prenatal and postpartum examinations, hospitalization, and recovery from childbirth.

Donor Leave

State employees are allowed up to 5 days of paid leave per two years for organ donation. (EO02-01).

Leave of Absence of Elective and Judicial Officer

When any elective officer of this state or any political subdivision thereof, including any judicial officer, shall enter upon active service or training as provided in RCW 73.16.031, 73.16.033 and 73.16.035, the proper officer, board or other agency, which would ordinarily be authorized to grant leave of absence or fill a vacancy created by the death or resignation of the elective official so ordered to such service, shall grant an extended leave of absence to cover the period of such active service or training and may appoint a temporary successor to the position so vacated. No leave of absence provided for herein shall operate to extend the term for which the occupant of any elective position shall have been elected.

 

Paid Sick Leave in Tacoma, Washington

Effective January 1, 2018, employees in Tacoma, Washington accrue paid sick leave at a rate of 1 hour per every 40 hours worked. Up to a total of 24 hours of paid sick leave may be accrued in a calendar year. The ordinance allows employees to carry over up to 24 hours of unused sick leave to the next calendar year and may use a combined total of up to 40 hours in subsequent years. Employees can use paid sick leave to care for an illness (either the employee’s or a family member’s), when their place of employment has been closed by order of a public official or to care for a child whose school has been closed by order of a public official, to seek law enforcement or legal help for domestic violence or sexual assault (either for the employee or a family member), to seek safety from domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, or for the bereavement of a family member.

 

Paid Sick Leave in Seattle, Washington

Effective January 1, 2018, all employers with more than 4 full-time equivalent employees must provide full-time, part-time, and temporary workers with paid sick leave. The paid sick leave can be used to deal with illness, injury or health condition of the employee, or a family member (including domestic partners), when their place of business has been closed for public health reasons or for reasons related to domestic or sexual violence or stalking. Employees with more than 4 but less than 50 employees must provide 1 hour paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, not to exceed 40 hours per year. Up to 40 hours of paid sick leave can be carried over to the next calendar year. Employers with 50-249 employees must provide 1 hour paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, not to exceed 56 hours per year. Up to 56 hours of paid sick leave can be carried over to the next calendar year. Employers with 250 or more employees must provide 1 hour paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, not to exceed 72 hours per year. Up to 72 hours of paid sick leave can be carried over to the next calendar year.

Last updated on: September 18th, 2019