The Evergreen State has long been aggressive in pursuing a robust minimum wage. Whether the reason is fairness to workers, a living wage, or the idea of stimulating economic activity from the bottom, the legislature has continually pushed to provide a minimum wage that exceeds national standards. In November of 2016, the voters displayed their eagerness for increasing the minimum wage when they passed Initiative 1433, or I-1433.
In addition to the minimum wage floor, I-1433 introduces a previously foreign concept – paid sick leave. Prior to I-1433, sick leave was mandated in that the person taking leave is in most cases allowed to return to his or her job, but was not guaranteed pay. Under I-1433, the employer will be obliged to pay an employee. I-1433 also clarified issues with respect to those employees under the age of 18. The minimum wage structure under I-1433 is for those workers aged 18 and older. Note the Washington Department of Labor and Industry, or L & I, is vested with overseeing the implementation of I-1433 and of enforcing the new minimum wage scale under the law.
Minimum Wage Increase
Under I-1433, the minimum wage in the state of Washington will increase incrementally over the next several years. At the time of the referendum, November of 2016, the minimum wage in the state was $7.25 with certain municipalities, like Seattle and Tacoma, having a minimum wage of $9.35, depending on the company size and other factors. Now, effective since January 1st of this year, the minimum wage is $11. On January 1, 2018, that will increase to $11.50, $12 in 2019, $13.50 in 2020, and $15 in 2021. The incremental increase is designed so employers can adjust to the rising wages while still providing substantial earnings bumps for the employees.
Paid Sick Leave
I-1433 provides employees with paid sick leave, a previously foreign concept. If the employee is sick and unable to work or if an employee’s family member is sick and requires the employee’s full-time attention, then the employer must pay the employee for the days missed. A family member is described as either a spouse, a registered domestic partner (registered can be that the couple files a joint tax return, is covered by one partner’s health insurance plan, etc.), a parent, or a child. The child can be either a biological or adopted child.
Employees Under the Age of 18
Children, meaning those under the age of 18, have a slightly different minimum wage pay structure than adults have in Washington state. In general, the minimum wage for a worker ages 15 through 17 is 85% of the minimum wage of the majority, to be adjusted incrementally. Note that there are other laws, namely child labor laws, that protect the rights of children in an employment context. Scooping ice cream on a hot summer afternoon in Seattle never paid so good!
If you are an employee and feel that your employer is not upholding his or her pay requirements regarding the minimum wage, contact the employment and labor firm of HKM law.