The Washington Minimum Wage Act, or WMWA, regulates the terms and conditions of minimum wage and overtime pay to Washington state workers. It empowers the Washington Department of Labor and Industry, or WDLI, to enforce rules, recover pay owed by employers, and to make related rules and regulations. The WDLI also has investigatory power with respect to claims of wage violations and has the authority to gather data about wages, hours, and other relevant workplace conditions.
While the WDLI has power to administer wage and hour employment issues, it does not have power to issue administrative wage orders. It does have the authority to issue administrative interpretations of the law and can implement laws and provide variances, in certain circumstances, from wage and hours matters.
Note that WDLI interpretations and regulations are persuasive. That is to say, if there is an issue regarding the interpretation of a statute, a court, though not required to, will give serious weight to a WDLI interpretation of or regulation based on a statute. Of course, if the court feels that the interpretation is incorrect or that the regulation contravenes the statute then the court will rule not like the WDLI’s understanding.
The WDLI has the power to compel employers to pay wages owed to employees and apply civil penalties to those employers who do not comply with such orders to pay. In addition to this type of enforcement, the WLDI can sue an employer on behalf of an employee for wage claims. This authority applies to employees in both the public and private sector.
The Washington Legislature considers its ability to enforce recouping wages and similar rules and proper police power. Specifically, the law states: “Therefore the legislature declares that in its considered judgment the health, safety and the general welfare of the citizens of this state require the enactment of this measure, and exercising its police power, the legislature endeavors by this chapter to establish a minimum wage for employees of this state to encourage employment opportunities within the state. The provisions of this chapter are enacted in the exercise of the police power of the state for the purpose of protecting the immediate and future health, safety and welfare of the people of this state.”
The WDLI also enacted laws that provide a minimum standard of sick leave for all workers. At minimum, an employee earns one hour of sick leave per every 40 hours worked. Once a month, employers must provide their workers with a written statement showing accrued hours worked and used and available hours. This requirement starts after the 90th day of employment. Workers are also allowed to carry over at least 40 hours of unused leave from one year to the next.
Similarly, the WDLI regulates break time. All workers in the Evergreen state are entitled to at least 10 minutes of break time per four hours of work. The break time is paid.
Employment issues? Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, a Washington State labor law firm.