Employment Laws In Washington State

by ECL Writer
Employment Laws In Washington State

Washington State has a comprehensive set of employment laws that govern the relationship between employers and employees. These laws cover a wide range of issues, including minimum wage, overtime pay, meal and rest breaks, discrimination, harassment, and workers’ compensation. It is important for both employers and employees to understand their rights and obligations under these laws to ensure a fair and safe workplace for all.

One of the most significant employment laws in Washington State is the minimum wage law. As of January 1, 2023, the minimum wage in Washington State is $16.69 per hour, which is higher than the federal minimum wage. This law applies to all employees who work in the state, regardless of their occupation or industry. Employers are required to pay their employees at least the minimum wage and provide them with regular pay statements that show the hours worked and the wages earned.

Another important employment law in Washington State is the Paid Sick Leave law. Under this law, employers are required to provide their employees with one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. This sick leave can be used for the employee’s own illness or injury, or to care for a family member who is ill or injured. The law applies to all employees, regardless of their status as full-time, part-time, or temporary workers.

Employment Discrimination Laws in Washington State

Washington State has strong employment discrimination laws that protect all workers from unfair and discriminatory practices in the workplace. These laws are designed to ensure that everyone has equal opportunities for employment and advancement regardless of their race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, or disability status.

Under RCW Chapter 49.60, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees or job applicants based on any of the protected categories mentioned above. This law covers all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, promotions, pay, and benefits. Employers are also prohibited from retaliating against employees who report discrimination or participate in discrimination investigations.

In addition to state laws, there are also federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). While these federal laws provide additional protections for workers, they do not replace or override state laws.

Employers in Washington State are required to provide a workplace free from discrimination and harassment. This includes taking proactive steps to prevent discrimination, such as providing anti-discrimination training to employees and creating policies that prohibit discrimination and harassment. Employers who fail to comply with these laws may face legal action and financial penalties.

Overall, Washington State’s employment discrimination laws are designed to promote fairness and equality in the workplace. By understanding these laws and their rights, workers can ensure that they are being treated fairly and can take action if they experience discrimination or harassment on the job.

Workplace Safety and Health Laws

Washington State has a strong commitment to protecting the safety and health of workers. The state has a comprehensive system of workplace safety and health laws that apply to all employers and employees in the state. These laws are enforced by the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) and cover a wide range of workplace hazards and risks.

One of the key workplace safety and health laws in Washington State is the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act (WISHA). This law requires employers to provide a safe and healthy workplace for their employees. It sets out specific safety and health standards that employers must follow to protect their workers from hazards such as falls, chemical exposure, and electrical hazards.

In addition to WISHA, Washington State also has a number of other workplace safety and health laws. For example, the state has regulations that require employers to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to their employees when necessary to protect them from workplace hazards. Employers must also provide training to their employees on how to use PPE correctly.

Washington State also has laws that require employers to provide workers with information and training on hazardous substances in the workplace. Employers must maintain a written hazard communication program and provide employees with access to safety data sheets (SDS) for hazardous substances they work with.

Overall, Washington State’s workplace safety and health laws are designed to protect workers from workplace hazards and ensure that employers provide a safe and healthy workplace. Employers who fail to comply with these laws can face fines and other penalties.

Wage and Hour Laws

Washington state has several wage and hour laws that regulate the payment of wages and overtime for employees. These laws are designed to ensure that employees are paid fairly and that they receive the compensation they deserve for their work.

Minimum Wage Laws

The current minimum wage in Washington state is $15.74 per hour as of January 1, 2023. This minimum wage is adjusted each year for inflation. Employers are required to pay their employees at least the minimum wage, and they are not allowed to pay less than this amount.

Employers must also provide employees with written notice of their rate of pay, which must include the hourly rate and any other compensation such as bonuses or commissions. The notice must be provided to the employee at the time of hire and whenever there is a change in the rate of pay.

Overtime Laws

Washington state law requires that non-exempt employees be paid one and a half times their regular rate of pay for any hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek. This applies to both hourly and salaried employees.

Employers must also keep accurate records of the hours worked by their employees, including the number of hours worked each day and each workweek. This information must be kept for at least three years and made available to the employee upon request.

It is important to note that some employees are exempt from overtime laws, including executive, administrative, and professional employees. These exemptions are based on specific job duties and salary levels, and employers must ensure that they meet the criteria for exemption before classifying an employee as exempt.

In summary, Washington state has strict wage and hour laws that employers must follow to ensure that their employees are paid fairly and receive the compensation they deserve for their work. Employers must pay at least the minimum wage and provide overtime pay for non-exempt employees who work over 40 hours in a workweek.

Family and Medical Leave Laws

Washington State has implemented a Paid Family and Medical Leave program that allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave per year for qualifying events. This program is designed to provide workers with paid time off when they need it most and to help employers attract and retain a skilled workforce.

Under this program, employees can take leave for a variety of reasons, including caring for a newborn or newly adopted child, caring for a family member with a serious health condition, or recovering from their own serious health condition. In addition, the program provides job protection for employees who take leave, meaning that employers must generally reinstate employees to their previous positions when they return to work.

To be eligible for Paid Family and Medical Leave, employees must have worked at least 820 hours in the qualifying period, which is generally the previous four quarters. Employers are required to begin payroll withholding in 2019, and benefits began in 2020. Starting in 2022, the mandatory premium deduction will be 0.6% of gross wages.

Employees who take Paid Family and Medical Leave are entitled to receive a percentage of their average weekly wage, up to a maximum weekly benefit amount. The percentage of the average weekly wage that employees can receive varies based on their income level, with lower-wage workers receiving a higher percentage of their wages.

Overall, Washington State’s Paid Family and Medical Leave program provides important benefits for both employees and employers. By providing paid time off for qualifying events, the program helps employees balance their work and family responsibilities, while also helping employers attract and retain skilled workers.

Workers’ Compensation Laws

Washington State has a comprehensive workers’ compensation system that provides benefits to employees who are injured or become ill as a result of their work. This system is designed to ensure that employees receive medical treatment, wage replacement, and other benefits necessary to recover from their injuries and return to work.

The workers’ compensation system in Washington State is governed by Title 51 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) and the Washington Administrative Code (WAC). These laws set out the rules and procedures for filing a claim, determining eligibility for benefits, and resolving disputes related to workers’ compensation.

Under Washington State law, most employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. This insurance provides coverage for medical expenses, wage replacement, and other benefits in the event of a work-related injury or illness.

Employees who are injured or become ill as a result of their work are generally eligible for workers’ compensation benefits regardless of who was at fault for the injury or illness. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, such as injuries resulting from willful misconduct or intoxication.

In addition to providing benefits to injured workers, Washington State’s workers’ compensation system also includes provisions for employers. For example, employers have the right to contest a claim if they believe it is invalid or fraudulent. They also have the right to appeal decisions made by the Department of Labor and Industries related to workers’ compensation claims.

Overall, Washington State’s workers’ compensation system is designed to protect both employees and employers in the event of a work-related injury or illness. By providing benefits to injured workers and establishing clear rules and procedures for filing claims and resolving disputes, this system helps ensure that employees receive the care and support they need to recover and return to work.

Unemployment Insurance Laws

Washington state has specific laws and regulations regarding unemployment insurance. Employees who lose their jobs through no fault of their own may be eligible for unemployment benefits. These benefits partially replace their regular earnings and help them meet expenses while they look for another job.

To apply for benefits, individuals can visit the Employment Security Department website and follow the instructions provided. It is their responsibility to get back to work as quickly as possible while receiving benefits.

Washington state’s Revised Code of Washington (RCW) and Washington Administrative Code (WAC) provide the legal framework for unemployment insurance. Both codes outline the eligibility criteria, benefit amounts, and duration of benefits.

The RCW also outlines the penalties for employers who engage in unfair labor practices, such as bringing in out-of-state workers to replace employees involved in a labor dispute. The RCW also provides a job skills training program and outlines the procedures for handling claims by interstate claimants.

The WAC provides additional details on the unemployment insurance program, including the process for waiving the week requirement when the first week of unemployment benefits is federally funded. It also outlines the application process for standby workers who are temporarily laid off and available for work.

Overall, Washington state’s unemployment insurance laws are designed to provide temporary financial support to individuals who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. By following the eligibility criteria and application process outlined in the RCW and WAC, individuals can receive the benefits they need to help them get back on their feet.

Pay transparency in Washington

While discussing compensation has traditionally been a sensitive subject, pay transparency laws are gaining traction across the United States, aimed at promoting pay equity. California set the precedent by introducing such legislation in 2018, and since then, 11 other U.S. states, including Washington, have followed suit.

Starting in 2019, Washington state law mandated that employers with 15 or more employees disclose the minimum compensation for a job. However, as of January 1, 2023, employers are now also obligated to include salary ranges and details about benefits and compensation in all job postings. Furthermore, employers must furnish current employees seeking an internal transfer or promotion with the salary range for the respective position upon request.

Rippling streamlines this process by automatically implementing compensation bands during onboarding and identifying any deviations from these bands, allowing you to review and approve or decline individual cases.

Breaks and rest periods in Washington

Washington employers are obligated to grant their employees appropriate meal and rest breaks, comprising the following:

  • A minimum of 10 minutes of rest for every four hours worked.
  • Unpaid meal breaks, lasting at least 30 minutes, when employees work for more than five hours in a single shift. These meal breaks should ideally commence as close to the midpoint of the work period as feasible.
  • An additional unpaid meal period if employees work beyond their scheduled shift by more than three hours.

Furthermore, employees cannot be compelled to work continuously for more than three hours without a break. Additional, specific meal and rest period requirements may pertain to nursing mothers and healthcare professionals.

Leaves of absence in Washington

Washington law allows workers to take unpaid or paid leave for a range of reasons—whether to recover from an illness, serve on a jury, mourn the death of a family member, or care for a newborn child. 

Almost all Washington employers must participate in the Paid Family and Medical Leave program (PFML), from businesses with just one employee to charities and nonprofits. Washington employees also have leave rights under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA); PFML and FMLA will often run concurrently. 

To be eligible for Paid Family and Medical Leave, employees must have worked at least 820 hours in Washington over the last year. The 820 hours can be at one job or multiple, including full-time, part-time, temporary, and seasonal work. 

In one year, eligible workers in Washington can take either:

  • Up to 12 weeks of medical or family leave 
  • 16-18 weeks of combined medical and family leave

Once they meet the eligibility criteria, employees can receive PFML benefits for:

  • Medical leave for a serious health condition
  • Providing care for a family member with a serious health diagnosis
  • Bonding with a new baby or child in their family 

Pregnancy disability leave in Washington

Employees can take 18 weeks of combined medical and family leave if they experience a condition in pregnancy that results in incapacity, such as being put on bed rest or having a C-section. 

Even if an employer doesn’t allow leave for sickness or disability, they may not refuse reasonable leave to a woman who is pregnant. Employees must be able to return to the same job, or a similar job of at least the same pay, after taking a pregnancy disability leave.

Paid sick leave in Washington 

You must provide workers in Washington with at least one hour of paid sick leave (PSL) for every 40 hours worked.

Full-time, part-time, seasonal, and temporary workers can take paid sick leave once they have been employed for at least 90 days. Reasons employees can take PSL include:

  • A mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition
  • To seek a medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative medical care
  • To care for a family member who requires medical attention 
  • If their workplace or their child’s place of care has been closed for a health-related reason by order of a public official
  • If they are absent for reasons that qualify under Washington’s Domestic Violence Leave Act

Jury duty leave in Washington

You must provide employees with time off for jury duty without threatening to fire or penalize them in any way. While you’re not required to pay employees on jury duty, most employers provide compensation for at least part, if not all, of the time period. 

With Rippling, you can automate and customize your leave policy, so you get a clear view of how employees are taking their leave.

Unions in Washington 

A labor union is a collective of two or more workers who unite with the common goal of advancing their shared interests and enhancing their working conditions. These improvements can encompass aspects such as securing higher wages, obtaining more time off, and enjoying enhanced benefits. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) grants employees specific rights, including the ability to:

  • Form, join, or assist a union in negotiations with their employer.
  • Engage in collective bargaining through their selected employee representatives.
  • Discuss the terms and conditions of their employment with their colleagues.
  • Take action to enhance their working conditions, including raising work-related grievances with their employer or government agencies, or seeking support from a union.
  • Participate in strikes and picketing for various purposes.
  • Opt not to engage in any of these activities, including refraining from joining a union.

The NLRA also prohibits unions from using threats of job loss or harm to pressure employees into supporting the union. Similarly, employers are not permitted to hinder, discourage, terminate, demote, or threaten employees who choose to join or back a union.

It is worth noting that union-related laws can differ between states, with the presence of “right-to-work” laws offering employees the choice of whether to join or support a union. Washington, for instance, is not considered a “right-to-work” state, allowing Washington employers and labor unions the flexibility to negotiate contracts that require union membership. In such cases, employers may require workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

Military Leave

Employers are obligated to restore qualified employees who are returning from military leave to either their previous position or a comparable one, taking into account seniority, status, and compensation, except in specific circumstances. Employees who meet the eligibility criteria are entitled to 15 days of unpaid leave whenever their military spouse is deployed during a period of military conflict.

Wash. Rev. Code §§ 73.16.03173.16.03349.77.030.

Smoking Laws

Employers are required to either ban smoking within enclosed office spaces or confine it to designated smoking areas. Additionally, they must also enforce a smoking prohibition within enclosed indoor workplaces accessible to the public and the surrounding areas.

Exceptions: Certain private enclosed workplaces within public places are not covered by the smoking provisions. 

Wash. Rev. Code § 70.160.020.

Employers and owner-operators of workplaces and public places that are covered by the smoking provisions must post “No Smoking” signs at building entrances and other prominent locations throughout the establishment. 

Wash. Rev. Code § 70.160.050.

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