On June 5th, 2019, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) formally filed a petition to change the state’s overtime rules. Should the proposed rule changes go into effect, overtime protections will be restored to many thousands of workers across the state.
As noted by Washington Governor Jay Inslee, this rule change is important because employees in our state are working longer and harder than ever and “overtime protections ensure that workers are fairly compensated.”
You can find the full text of the proposed rule here: Minimum wages Chapter 296-128, WAC.
Your Guide to Washington’s Proposal to Restore Overtime Protections
Not all workers are eligible to receive overtime. Many salaried employees — meaning those who are paid a fixed amount regardless of their hours worked — are exempt from state and federal overtime rules. Under both Washington law and federal law, workers must be paid a minimum amount to be classified as exempt from overtime rules.
However, that minimum amount is lagging. Washington has not updated its overtime rules since 1976. Since that time, there have been major changes in the structure of the state’s economy and substantial inflation. As a result, a far higher percentage of “white-collar workers” are now exempt from overtime regulations than were 40 years ago. With the support of Governor Jay Inslee, L&I is set to take action to restore overtime protections to many workers.
The New Rules Explained
Too many workers are now being asked to put in more than 40 hours a week without being properly compensated for it. The proposed overtime rules will restore important labor protections to many of these employees. Specifically, there are two key aspects of the rule change:
- Increase the Salary Thresholds: First and foremost, Washington is set to raise the minimum amount a worker must make to be classified as exempt from overtime rules. Currently, Washington follows federal policy — meaning you only need to make $455 per week or $24,000 per year to be classified as an exempt worker. The proposed rule change will reset the minimum salary threshold to account for four decades of inflation. Beginning in July of 2020, the new minimum salary thresholds will be $35,000 per year for small employers and $49,000 for larger ones. Furthermore, the state has created an automatic formula to ensure that these thresholds will continue to rise in the future.
- Simplify the Regulatory ‘Test’: In addition to fixing the salary thresholds and restoring overtime protections to many thousands of workers, L&I is also proposing a rule change that would alter the ‘test’ that is used to determine if a worker even qualifies for the overtime exemption. Under current state regulations, two different tests are used. However, going forward, these tests will be combined into a single test that is more consistent with the federal standard.
These are very important changes. For reference, L&I estimates that as many as 250,000 workers in Washington could have overtime protections restored by 2026.
What Happens Now
Consistent with Washington’s formal rulemaking process, L&I will seek feedback from stakeholders and from members of the general public. The public comment period officially started on June 5th, and it runs until September 6th. There are six official public hearings scheduled to take place in communities across the state:
- July 15th: L&I headquarters in Tumwater;
- July 16th: Swedish Club in Seattle;
- July 17th: Sheraton Hotel & Conference Center in Bellingham;
- August 5th: Hal Holmes Community Center in Ellensburg;
- August 6th: Springfield Suites in Kennewick; and
- August 7th: CenterPlace Regional in Spokane.
In addition to the public hearings, you can also voice your support for better overtime protections for Washington workers by sending an email to EAPRules@Lni.wa.gov or by sending a letter to
Standards Program, P.O. Box 44510, Olympia, WA, 98504-4510.
In its press release, L&I notes that the formal rulemaking process usually takes around 180 days. Currently, L&I expects to finalize and officially adopt these overtime rules towards the end of 2019.
We Support Workers’ Rights in Washington
At The Walthew Law Firm, we are strong advocates for injured workers. If you or your loved one was hurt on the job, our legal team is here to help. To set up a free, fully confidential consultation with an experienced Washington work injury lawyer, please do not hesitate to contact our law firm today. We handle workers’ compensation claims in Seattle, Everett, and throughout the surrounding communities.