Wage and Hour Blog
Dolley Law LLC


Washington Wage and Hour Laws

Dolley Law has litigated and consulted on wage and hour matters nationwide, including Washington. Washington has a wide variety of laws and rules related to wage and hour issues. It is critical to have knowledgeable and experienced wage and hour counsel to understand this network of laws and rules. Contact an attorney with Dolley Law to see if our Firm can assist you with your situation.

Washington Minimum Wage

Minimum wage rates in Washington exceed the federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour. See RCW 49.46.020(1)-(2). Like many other states, Washington’s minimum wage law involves a scale of increasing minimum wage rates over a period of time. Id. Currently, as of January 1, 2020, the minimum wage rate in Washington is $13.50 per hour. Id.

Unlike the FLSA and many other states, this minimum wage rate also applies to tipped employees. See RCW 49.46.020(3). Washington law explicitly states: “[t]ips and service charges paid to an employee are in addition to, and may not count towards, the employee’s hourly minimum wage.” Id. In other words, the employer may not take what is commonly known as a “tip credit”—that is, may not count tips toward total weekly pay for purposes of ensuring the employee’s regular rate of pay exceeds the minimum wage rate. Under the FLSA, employers do have that option available to them: they can pay employees a normal hourly rate of $2.13 or more, so long as the average hourly pay (i.e., all hours worked divided by all pay received, including tips) meets or exceeds the federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour.

Failing to pay minimum wages in Washington comes with certain liabilities. See RCW 49.12.150, 49.46.090. Washington law provides employees with a right to bring a civil lawsuit to recover unpaid minimum wages. Id. This law also entitles employees who prevail in such actions to recovery of their attorneys’ fees and costs. Id.

Washington Overtime

Washington has its own overtime law. See RCW 49.46.130. Like the FLSA, it contains a requirement that employers must pay their employees time-and-a-half for all hours worked over forty (40) in any given workweek. Id.; 29 U.S.C. § 207. However, the laws are not identical. Washington has its own rules and regulations regarding exemptions from overtime. See, e.g., RCW 49.46.010(3); WAC 296-128-500, et seq.

Washington also has its own overtime laws specific to employees of health care facilities. See RCW 49.28.130. Washington defines these employees as those individuals who: (i) are employed by a health care facility; (ii) are involved in direct patient care activities or clinical services; (iii) receive an hourly wage or are covered by a collective bargaining agreement; and (iv) have a specific type of health care related license named in the statute (e.g., registered nurse, practical nurse, etc.). Id. The law also specifies what types of entities or employers are covered by this special overtime rule.

Under this health care overtime rule in Washington, “overtime” is defined in a special manner; it is not simply the hours worked over forty (40) in a given workweek. See RCW 49.28.130(4). Moreover, this special overtime rule has other requirements, wrinkles and limits. See RCW 49.28.140. The law generally prohibits employers from requiring these employees to work overtime. Id. However, the law has some exceptions to this general prohibition, such as overtime work that becomes necessary due to unforeseeable emergencies or after an employer has used reasonable efforts to obtain other staffing. Id.

Meal Breaks and Rest Periods for Healthcare Employees

Washington law also contains wage and hour rules on meal and rest breaks specific to health care facility employees. See RCW 49.12.480. Generally, employers in this industry must provide employees with uninterrupted meal and rest breaks. Id. However, there are exceptions, such as in the case of an unforeseeable emergency as defined by law. Id. In the absence of these exceptions, if an employee’s rest period is interrupted before ten (10) minutes have transpired, the employee must be given an additional ten minute uninterrupted rest break at the earliest reasonable time during the work period during which the employee was required to receive a rest period. Id. With regard to meal breaks, the employer must provide a mechanism to record when an employee misses a meal or rest period and maintain those records. See RCW 49.12.480(2).

Wage Payment

Washington has further laws requiring employers to remit payment of wages to employees in a timely fashion. See RCW 49.48.010, et seq. In the event an employer fails to do so, an employee may bring a cause of action to recover the wages in addition to his or her reasonably attorneys’ fees and costs. See RCW 49.48.030. However, attorneys’ fees will not be awarded where the amount of wages recovered by the employee were less than or equal to the wage amount admitted by the employer to be owing. Id.

Contact Us

The potential liabilities that may stem from wage and hour violations in Washington make it very important for you to proactively seek legal guidance. Our attorneys at Dolley Law are ready to help you with your wage and hour needs and goals. If you are in or around King, Pierce, Snohomish, Spokane, Clark, Thurston, Kitsap, Yakima, Whatcom, or Benton counties, do not hesitate to give us a call at (314) 645-4100 or send us an email at kevin@dolleylaw.com. Contact us today to learn more.