Employees across the United States have a right to receive compensation for their labor, and the U.S. Department of Labor federally protects that right. In Washington state, the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) protects this right, as well.
Bellevue, WA, employees have the right to sue for unpaid wages owed by employers. Chapter 49.48 RCW states employers’ requirements and duties to their employees and all exceptions to those responsibilities. It also contains the penalties for failure to comply.
Therefore, if you live in King County and you’ve had your wages withheld, denied, or garnished, then a wage dispute lawyer in Bellevue can help you claim them.
Can You Sue An Employer or Company for Unfair Wages?
Depending on your employment terms, the compensation you receive at the end of your billing cycle is more than a mere paycheck. It may include overtime, vacation time, tips, breaks during the workday, and sales commissions. Any withholding or denial of these compensation forms can be grounds for a lawsuit; meaning you can sue your employer for unfair wages or unpaid overtime in Washington state.
Our state has significant penalties for employers who withhold wages and overtime. You can sue your employer to recover your wages, interest, attorney fees for recovery efforts, or even punitive damages.
Forms of Wage Denial
Withheld Meal Breaks
If you work for over five hours, you are legally entitled to a meal break (at least 30 minutes long) which must occur between hours two and five from the start of your shift. Additionally, if you work for three or more hours longer than your normal-length workday, you are also entitled to an additional thirty-minute meal break.
Certain employees like newspaper carriers, vendors, agricultural laborers, or private domestic help may be exempt from this requirement.
Paying Employees Less than the Minimum Wage
The state of Washington has a mandated minimum wage of $9.32 for all employees unless they are less than 16 years old. Therefore, paying employees less than the minimum wage is a form of wage denial. Fourteen and fifteen-year-old employees may receive 85% of the current minimum wage.
Another form of wage theft is the practice of misidentifying employees. For example, labeling salaried employees as independent contractors to withhold benefits is also wage theft.
Refusal to Pay Overtime
Washington state law and the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act require employers to pay employees who work for over 40 hours a week overtime. However, several exceptions exist, for example, some salaried workers may not qualify for overtime payment. Some employers may intentionally or accidentally misclassify employees as exempt from overtime rules, which is a form of wage theft.
Other types of wage theft include illegal deductions and pressuring employees to avoid seeking workers’ compensation.
Are Bonuses Considered Wages in Washington?
Employers must include non-discretionary bonuses when calculating the rate of pay of a piece-rate worker. Employers guarantee these bonuses to workers for meeting set production rates or goals. However, the law does not recognize discretionary bonuses as guaranteed because they are not expected or promised. The IRS considers bonuses as part of supplemental wages and therefore taxable.
Can You Sue a Company or Employer for Paying You Late?
Yes, you can sue your employer in court or file a complaint with the L&I if they withhold your check. The law identifies these types of lawsuits as wage and hour, and the court analyzes the evidence presented to determine what amounts an employer owes their employee. These can include late and missed payments, back wages, overtime pay, and disputes over minimum wage amounts or other payment forms.
How Long Does a Wage Lawsuit Take?
You can file a claim with the L&I if your employer owes you compensation or wages. L&I will investigate the complaint and do one of the following within 60 days:
- Make a “citation and assessment” that the employer should pay the withheld wages plus interest.
- Make a “determination” that the employer has not violated the law and does not owe you.
You can file an appeal in 60 days if you disagree with the L&I decision or choose to opt-out of the decision within ten days and file a lawsuit. The statute of limitation for filing a wage and hour lawsuit in Washington is three years for oral contracts, minimum wage, and overtime. It’s six years for written contracts.
The length of the lawsuit process is relative and subject to several factors within and without your reach. Consulting a wage disputes attorney can help you determine if you have a strong case and whether or not to proceed.
How Do I Choose An Employment Law Attorney in Bellevue?
Always do your due diligence first to shortlist potential employment lawyers in Bellevue, WA. Interview your shortlisted employment attorneys and ensure the law firm you select has enough experience handling similar wage and hour dispute cases like yours.
Ensure that you and your employment law attorney are on the same page before you hire them. Be honest with them about your employment contract so that they are in the best position to help you with your case.
Consult with Experienced Wage Dispute Lawyers in Bellevue
The law offices of HKM Employment Attorneys are here to serve clients near Seattle and Bellevue who seek fair compensation and want to combat malpractice. The attorneys at our law firm will use years of experience to help with your wage, compensation, or other work-related legal issues. Our team of attorneys is at-hand to review your employment contract and give legal advice, so contact our law firm in King County to discuss your options during an initial consultation.