On November 5, SeaTac residents will decide whether they will raise the nation’s highest minimum wage from $9.19 to $15 an hour. Proposition 1, if passed, would require business in the SeaTac area to pay employees more than double the national minimum wage. The dramatic increase in minimum wage is intended to help struggling SeaTac workers, but employers fear that the increase would require them to cut hours, employees, raise prices, and potentially leave the area. Both sides have been vocal in their opinions over this proposition, but it will be the votes that speak the loudest.
Since the issue is employment oriented, unions are organizing their members and trying to encourage community activism. Some of the most recent activism consisted of fast food workers going on strike in Seattle and across the nation to raise attention to the dire financial situation of the fast food industry’s low wages and in helping to get Proposition 1 on the ballot. Employers on the other hand have been vocal in expressing their concerns that if voters pass the bill those very same voters could end up without a job because the employer would not be able to afford to pay them. The employers may not have made direct threats of potential unemployment to their employees, but the sentiment is there. With such a contentious issue every vote is likely to make a difference and employees will no doubt take the time to vote..
Generally, Washington residents over the age of 18, who do not have a disqualifying felony record, are eligible to vote. In the most recent national election there were reports of voters waiting in line for hours to vote. This has led to many changes in voting laws across the nation. In Washington, the recent change in election laws may have an impact on employees planning on voting in person.
Prior to July 28th of this year, state law required employers to provide employees up to two hours of paid time during the work schedule to vote. This requirement was subject to some obvious provisions like if the employee’s schedule did not last for the entire voting period or if the employee was not actually working on Election Day then the employer was not required make any allowances. After July 28th, however, the law requiring time off to vote was repealed and employers are no longer required to make scheduling accommodations on Election Day. That is not to say that some employers will not be willing make reasonable accommodations, they just will not be required to do so.
Jury duty, like voting, is a civic right and duty. However, there are laws requiring time off for jury duty. Employers also have the option paying of employees while on jury duty or not. The State Court website and some of our previous posts provide advice about the legal requirements and rights associated employers, employees, and jury duty.
If you believe you have been denied your employment rights, contact an experienced employment law attorney.