Washington State Overtime and Labor Laws

Below is an overview of the minimum wage and overtime pay laws that apply to workers in the state of Washington. Private actions to enforce Washington’s wage and hour laws, and recover unpaid overtime due to workers, are commonly brought (on a contingent fee basis) by employment law firms such as The Lore Law Firm. If you believe that you have been deprived of the overtime pay that you are legally entitled to, please contact us for a free and confidential review of your situation.
Minimum Wage
As of January 1, 2014, Washington state minimum wage is $9.32. Prior minimum wage rates were:
  • January 1, 2013 $9.19
  • January 1, 2012 $9.04
  • January 1, 2011 $8.67
  • January 1, 2010 $8.55
  • January 1, 2009 $8.55
  • January 1, 2008 $8.07
Tipped Employees Tipped employees must be paid at least $9.32 per hour. Employers are not allowed to use tips as a credit against minimum wage.
Overtime Regulations
Most hourly workers are entitled to be paid overtime at a rate of at least one and one-half times the worker’s regular hourly rate for hours worked over 40 during a 7-day work week. Comp Time While Washington state employment law allows a worker to agree to receive time off at a later date instead of being paid overtime (“comp time”), federal law does not comp time to be given by private employers. Overtime Exemptions The following are some of the employees who are exempt from the overtime regulations under Washington state law:
  • Farm/ Ranch/Agricultural workers
  • Casual Labor in/at private residences such as babysitting or yard work
  • Fire and forest protection employees
  • Newspaper venders / carriers
  • Seasonal agricultural fair employees as long as they don’t work more than 14 days per year
  • Employees who sleep or reside at their place of employment (Federal law may be different than state law).
  • Seaman and Washington State ferry crews
  • Employees a youth camps
  • Inmates, residents or patients of public detention, treatment or rehabilitation facilities
  • Elected or appointed public positions
  • Volunteers
  • Movie Projectionists
  • Air carrier employees
  • Executive, Administrative, Professional, Computer Professional and Outside Sales (link to Fed exemptions)
  The following employees are required to be paid overtime but may be paid under an alternate method:
  • Commissioned Salespeople that sell cars, trucks, farm implements, recreational vehicles and manufactured housing as long as they receive at least one and one-half the minimum wage for all hours worked.
  • Retail / Service Employees if more than half of their wages per week is commissions.
  • Truck / Bus Drivers if the company has gotten approval from the Department of Labor & Industries for a “reasonably equivalent” plan
  • Firefighters / Police Officers if they work certain tours of duty
Nurses’ Overtime Law RN’s and LPNs who work in certain facilities and are paid on an hourly basis cannot be required to work over the established schedules or agreed-upon work week.
Holiday pay is not required under Washington state labor laws. While a business may choose to pay employees overtime for working on a holiday, it is not required by law. If employees are paid for hours not worked on a holiday, these hours are not considered time worked when determining overtime hours for the work week.
Vacation pay is not required under Washington state employment laws.
Meal Breaks / Rest Periods
Rest Periods – A paid rest break of at least 10 minutes is required for each 4 hours worked. The rest period must be provided no later than the end of the 3rd hour of the shift. Meal Periods – If an employee works more than 5 hour in a shift, they must be allowed at least a 30 minute meal period. The meal period cannot start prior to 2 hours into the shift or later than 5 hours into the shift. This meal period does not have to be paid if the employee is relieved of all duties for the entire period.
The following deductions can be made from an employee’s paycheck while employed or from their final paycheck:
  • State and federal taxes
  • Deductions agreed to by the employee in advance such as personal loans and advances
  • Medical costs when the employees agrees to these deductions
  • Court-ordered garnishments
  The following deductions can be made from the final paycheck only if there is an agreement between the employee and employer. They cannot reduce the employee’s hourly wage below minimum wage and can only apply to the final pay period:
  • Cash drawer shortages – subject to certain conditions
  • Breakage, damage or loss of equipment if caused by the employee’s dishonest or willful act
  • Bad checks or credit card charges accepted by the employee if the business has established acceptance policies prior to the incident
  • Worker theft but the business must file a police report
  • Deductions that were agreed to at the time of termination
  No deduction may be made for unemployment compensation.
Reporting Time pay / Show-up Pay
Washington employment laws do not require employees to be paid if they report for their shift but are sent home because they are not needed.
Pay Period
Employees must be paid at least once per month on regularly established paydays. Final paychecks are due on the next regularly scheduled payday regardless of whether the employee was fired or quit.
Statute of Limitations
Under Washington state labor laws, employees may recover unpaid overtime for three years prior to the filing of a lawsuit.
Other Questions
Can employees be required to work overtime?
  • Yes. (There is an exception for registered nurses and licensed practical nurses).
Is there a limit on how many hours an employee can be required to work?
  • No. However, if an employee is non-exempt, then they must be paid overtime pay if they are required to work more than 40 hours per workweek. There are limits for employees under 18.
Can I agree to waive overtime pay?
  • No, employees cannot waive their right to overtime pay.
Is overtime required for working more than 8 hours in a day?
  • No, overtime pay is only required for working more than 40 hours in a workweek.
Can my employer change my work schedule?
  • Yes. Employer may change an employee’s schedule at any time, with or without notice.
What records are my employer required to keep and can I get copies?
  • Employers must keep employee contact information, occupation, daily and weekly hours, rates of pay, total wages earned, deductions and net pay for the pay periods for 3 years. When requested, these records must be made available to an employee in a reasonable amount of time.
Am I entitled to be paid for unused vacation, holiday or sick leave when I leave my job?
  • There is no state law that requires an employer to pay these benefits upon termination but if the employer promises to pay these benefits and does not, an employee can sue to recover these.
Can I be required to stay on site while on my meal or rest break?
  • Yes, you can be required to stay on site during your rest period and during paid meal breaks. If your break is unpaid, you can only be required to stay on site if you are completely relieved of duty and will never be called back to work during the meal period.
Can my employer hold my final check until I turn in uniforms or keys?
  • No. However, it is advisable to turn these items in promptly to avoid disputes.
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