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Washington State Labor and Employment Law

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Washington State labor law lawsuits allege violations of Washington state employment laws including overtime pay, discrimination and harassment. Washington state labor law sets out guidelines for minimum wage, meal and rest breaks and family care leave Possible violations of Washington employment law include wrongful termination, retaliation and discrimination.


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Washington State Employment Laws

Washington Minimum Wage and Rest Breaks

Minimum wage in Washington is $9.47 per hour as of January 1, 2015. This minimum wage applies to workers in both agriculture and non-agriculture jobs. However, 14- and 15-year-olds may be paid 85 percent of the minimum wage, which works out to $8.05 an hour. Washington is one of 10 states that adjusts its minimum wage based on inflation. In Seattle, the minimum wage as of January 1, 2016, is $13.00 an hour.

WorkersWorkers must be given a paid rest break of at least 10 minutes for every four hours worked. This 10 minutes can be all at once or broken up into smaller "mini" breaks. Workers must be allowed at least a 30 minute meal break if they work more than five hours in a shift and this meal break must be at least two hours into the shift but no more than five hours after the start of the shift. Workers who are required to remain on duty during their meal break, or must be on-call at the work site, must be paid for their 30-minute meal break.

Washington Employment Discrimination

Washington State Department of Labor & Industries does not have jurisdiction over discriminatory treatment based on age, sex, marital status, religion, race, national origin, or mental, physical or sensory handicap. People who believe they have been discriminated against in their employment can contact a lawyer for legal advice.

Washington State Laws About Caring for Family

The Family Care Act (2002) allows workers who have available paid sick leave or paid time off to use that time to care for a sick child with a routine illness; a spouse, parent, parent-in-law or grandparent with a serious or emergency health condition; and an adult child with a disability. The Family Care Act does not cover siblings, domestic partners, aunts and uncles, grandparents-in-law or grandchildren.

Washington law does not require employers to give workers paid holiday, vacation, sick or bereavement leave. However, if an employer agrees to give these benefits and then fails to do so, the employee may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the employer.

At Will Employment

Washington is an "at will" employment state. As such, at-will employees can be terminated for any reason, except reasons that are deemed to be illegal, such as on the basis of race, nationality or sexual orientation, or because the employee refuses to break a law. Employees who are covered by an employment contract can usually only be terminated for the reasons set out in the contract, unless the employer shows proof that the employee is an at-will employee.

Employees in Washington cannot be fired for filing a workplace rights complaint, a safety complaint or an injured worker claim.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

The Fair Labor Standards Act is a federal law regarding employee wages and hours worked, including overtime hours and wages. Under the FLSA, some workers can be exempted from overtime pay. However, those workers must fit the criteria the FLSA sets out for exemption. Washington's laws also apply to employment subject to the FLSA. In cases where both the FLSA and state law apply, the law setting the higher standards must be observed.

More information on how the Fair Labor Standards Act applies to overtime can be found here.

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal act that requires covered employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to eligible employees for the following reasons: birth and care of the employee's newborn child; care for a child after adoption or foster care placement; care for the employee's spouse, child or parent with a serious health condition; or for a serious health condition that affects the employee's ability to work.

Employees are eligible for FMLA coverage if they have worked for a covered employer for at least one year, for 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months (not necessarily consecutive months) and if a minimum of 50 employees are employed by the same employer within 75 miles.

Covered employers are those who employ more than 50 employees within 75 miles of the worksite and have at least 50 employees who work 20 or more work-weeks in the current calendar year or the previous calendar year. Public agencies are covered by the FMLA regardless of the number of employees.

Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)

The Occupational Safety and Health Act is a federal law enacted to ensure that employees work in an environment that is free from recognized hazards. It is part of the United States Code, Title 29, Chapter 15.

Employees who feel their rights have been violated may have the opportunity to bring their complaint before the courts.

Washington Employment Legal Help

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Janitors Taking on Fred Meyer in Washington Employment Class Action
Janitors Taking on Fred Meyer in Washington Employment Class Action
January 19, 2016
King County, WA: A group of janitors suing retail giant Fred Meyer are not looking to “clean up” as it were, but rather are seeking justice and due compensation for work performed off the clock in Washington state. The Washington Employment class action names as defendants Fred Meyer, as well as a number of subcontractors in a case due to be heard in April. READ MORE

Restaurant Lawsuit Could Have Implications for Overtime Lawsuits
Restaurant Lawsuit Could Have Implications for Overtime Lawsuits
December 23, 2013
At first glance, a minimum wage restaurant lawsuit in Philadelphia and Washington overtime lawsuits may not seem to have a lot in common, but the Philadelphia lawsuit could have implications for Washington employment lawsuits. That is because a judge has ruled in favor of arbitration in the lawsuit, preventing a class-action lawsuit from being filed. If employers in Washington follow suit, Washington employee rights might be enforced through arbitration panels. READ MORE

Washington Overtime Lawsuit Filed against Les Schwab
Washington Overtime Lawsuit Filed against Les Schwab
November 15, 2013
A Washington employment lawsuit, alleging violations of overtime laws, has reportedly been filed against Les Schwab Tire Centers Inc. The lawsuit alleges employees were repeatedly required to work overtime without receiving proper pay, a violation of federal and Washington State labor laws. READ MORE


Posted by

For the past 17 years my mother has worked 10 to 11 hours a day, 60 hours a week. She even works off the clock on her days off, per her bosses demands. She is denied breaks and meal times, under the guise of the business being "quick service". She has even been reprimanded for eating and going to the rest room. She has been treated with hostility for taking a few days off while incredibly ill. She has also been told that she is not allowed to use her accumulated vacation or sick time. The company has also been shaving hours off of her time clock, cutting down the vacation and sick that she has earned. She has regularly been denied bonuses that she has earned and been promised as well.
Her boss has also been in violation of the companies own rules against nepotism. Her boss treats those that aren't members of her family with contempt and purposefully deprive them of the tools they require to preform their duties.

What can she do?

Posted by

My husband and I started working ,cedar block cutter and packer.
Wife was packer, she packed blocks to road were a truck picked them up she has never been paid one cent .
Aprox 10 cord
Aprox owed to her $1000
Husband block cutter,cut and put in slings for helicopter to fly out 36 slings aprox $ 1800. Due him.
The boss was stoped from and thing with the block salvage claim dto violations . Our block have never been paid for .
Now the boss is on a different claim and just acts like he not going to pay any thing . What do we do ue t cu

Posted by

i work for a small local business (less than 15 emplyees total probably) in washington state and i make approx. $40-$60 in tips all month (if that) employer just admitted to me she keeps some of our tips to make up what money she lost for sending more than one workerof to a job...she doesnt tell us about tips from credit cards and when they give us our tip bonuses from christmas or other holidays...its very unfairly given out amongst the employees ($100+ to one employee and everyone else is lucky to get $20-$25 total) clearly showing favortism... can my employer keep our tips just because or allowed to "keep" it or part of it, if they (the employer ) feels they didnt earn enough money at their job site? They threaten to hold checks if employees dont talk to them in person, verbally abuse employees and harrassing them...and have even threatened to not pay me if my timesheet isn't filled out correctly to their standards...plz help me figure all this out and what i I can do legally if anything, thank you.

Posted by

I work an over 80 hour pay period already. My employer told me that we were attending a seminar that took place on a Saturday. I expected of course to get paid for the time that I had spent at that seminar because I was not given an option to not attend. I also have always received the hours I was at anything that pertained to my job at the time no matter what employer I have worked for in the past. My current employer will not pay me for the hours that I was at the seminar because he feels it was for my own personal growth and it cost him even though I personally contacted the company and got my ticket covered for FREE. is this even legal? I was not given the option to attend or not.

Posted by

We have a performance-based pay system. I found out other drivers were being paid for things they did during the workday where I performed the same actions and I was not paid. I brought the pay issue up and they started paying me the same way but we’ve been under this pay plan for 20 years and I want to sue for compensation

Posted by

I am a security guard with US Security Associates. I work at a site with numerous other guards. Many of us never receive our paychecks until 3-4 weeks later. Some stuff like CPR reimbursements, etc. are taking 1+ years. We have guards not being paid their due overtime. Many of us have nearly been evicted from our apartments, been slapped with huge late fees on credit cards or generally are living on the brink of near bankrupcy due to this. It is getting so bad that many of us are seeking new jobs. We consistantly call, email and even go into the branch office only to be continuasly turned away with no pay, telling us it'll come.

Posted by

Violation of breaks and meal periods. I filed complaint with labor and industries, and all they did was send the employer a letter stating the law and said that's their procedure. So the state is lazy and won't investigate a clear illegal activity and violation. Workers apparently don't have rights that are enforced.

Posted by

For the past 11 years, I have never been able to take two rest breaks during my eight-hour workday. Shouldn't my employer owe me for those breaks I never got?

Posted by

I am a salaried worker who signed up for a 40-hour week (out of college) and was told that 80+ hours a week was required October through December, due to “Business needs.” I've injured my foot (from standing) and have been harassed after asking about hour laws.


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