Labor Law Washington


The Law relating to Labor in the State of Washington is governed by the Revised code of Washington in Title 49.


Wage means compensation due to an employee as a result of employment. A wage must be paid in legal tender of the United States or by checks on banks, convertible into cash on demand at full face value. Wages may be paid by an alternative method, i.e., direct deposit, as long as there is no cost to the employee. When there is a fee or cost associated with the alternative payment method, the employee must be offered a choice of the alternative method or a payroll check.

Other items of potential value, i.e., meals and lodging, are not wages and cannot be considered part of the wages earned. This does not mean that an employer is legally restrained from deducting such items from the employee's gross wage.


Although there are some exemptions, most workers must be paid the minimum wage for all "hours worked" as required by state law. "Hours worked" includes preparation time, opening and closing the business, and required meetings and training. Any time spent by an employee in the performance of these duties must be recorded and paid. Fourteen- and 15-year-old workers may be paid 85 percent of the adult minimum wage. Employers may not use tips as credit toward minimum wages owed to an employee.

Effective January 1, 2005, it is $7.35 per hour. The minimum wage for 14- and 15-year-old minors is $6.25 per hour.

Most Washington employers are subject to both federal and state minimum wage and overtime laws. The effect of this dual coverage is that the employer must follow the higher standard, meaning the one most beneficial to the employee, when there are differing requirements in the laws. For example, since state law currently requires a higher minimum wage rate than federal, all Washington employers must pay the state rate.


Most employees that are paid hourly are entitled to be paid time-and-one-half their regular rate of pay for any time worked over 40 hours in a seven-day workweek. Some salary- or commission-based employees also must be paid overtime.

State and federal regulations both address which workers are exempt from overtime pay requirements. The federal overtime rules change as of Aug. 23, 2004.

Employers are required to follow the rule that is most favorable to each specific affected worker. It is essential that employers review both state and federal laws on the particular exemption to determine whether the exemption may be applied.

Overtime exemptions are determined on a case-by-case basis, so it is important to review the details about your particular circumstances and compare them against the new federal rules. Please check with the state Department of Labor and Industries, the U.S. Department of Labor or a qualified consultant to determine how your specific circumstances are affected.

Washington State overtime rules generally follow the old federal overtime rules. Because the federal rules changed, there will now be some cases in which the federal rules are more favorable to workers, and some in which the state rules are more favorable.

The federal rule changes affect white-collar workers only. Traditional blue-collar workers who perform manual labor, even if highly skilled, must be paid overtime under both state and federal rules.

Agricultural workers are generally exempt from overtime.

Workers not affected by these overtime-exemption rules include construction trades, production workers, probation and parole officers, and park rangers. The new rules also do not apply to first responders such as police, firefighters, paramedics, EMTs, ambulance personnel, rescue workers, and HAZMAT workers. These workers must actually perform the physical duties required, such as fighting fires, solving crimes, helping crime or accident victims, etc.


Washington State has separate rules for determining who can be considered exempt from overtime-pay requirements. Prior to the new federal rules, state and federal requirements were nearly identical. The new federal rules have, in some cases, changed who in Washington State can be considered exempt from overtime. Notable differences include:

  1. Minimum salary requirement
Washington's minimum salary for overtime-exempt workers is $250 per week. The new federal rules raise the federal minimum. It previously was as little as $155 per week, but now is $455 per week.
The new federal minimum salary of $455 per week will apply to most workers in Washington.
The minimum salary requirement for exempting an employee from overtime is only ONE FACTOR in determining whether an employee is exempt. Other requirements must be met in addition to the minimum salary, and state requirements in those areas may be the most favorable to your particular worker even though you use the federal minimum salary standard. Make sure to check both state and federal requirements.
  1. $100,000-per-year salary cap

Under the new federal rules, white-collar positions paying more than $100,000 per year are exempt from overtime pay if the employee has performed at least one duty in an executive, administrative, or professional function job. Washington does not have such a requirement, so state regulations are the most favorable to workers in this case.

  1. Outside sales employees:

Under the new federal rules , an outside sales employee who is exempt from overtime is defined as one who:

  1. Customarily and regularly is engaged away from his/her employer's place or places of business;
  2. Has a primary duty of making sales or obtaining orders or contracts for services or the use of facilities for which the client or customer will pay a consideration.

Washington State rules define an overtime-exempt outside sales employee as one who:

  1. Is customarily and regularly engaged away from his/her employer's place or places of business;
  2. Is engaged in making sales, obtaining orders or contracts for services or use of facilities or demonstrating products or equipment for sale;
  3. Is paid a guaranteed salary, commission, or fee payment (or combination);
  4. Controls his/her total hours worked each week;
  5. Spends no more than 20 percent of his/her time doing inside office work not related to outside sales.