It’s important to stay up to date on all of the employment laws in your state so that you can maintain compliance in your business. We did some of the hard work for you and put some of the most important Washington statutes in one place so you can either learn them for the first time or give yourself a refresher. 

However, remember that our summary is not qualified legal advice, laws are always subject to change, and they can vary from municipality to municipality. 

It’s up to you to make sure you’re compliant with all laws and statutes in your area. Consult with a qualified lawyer and/or your local government agencies if you have questions or concerns. 

Here are a few Washington labor laws every small business owner should know.

Resources

First, here are a few helpful links and resources for you to bookmark and refer back to:

Leave

  • Sick Days: Employers are required to provide paid sick leave to employees. 
  • Medical Leave: Employers may be required to provide medical leave in accordance with the state Family Care Act, Family Leave Act, and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act
  • Vacation Leave: Employers are not required to provide vacation leave but must comply with their own established policies if they choose to implement one. 
    • Employers may deny the payment of accrued vacation upon separation from employment, but if they establish a policy that says they will pay it out, they must comply with the contract. 
    • Employers may establish a policy that disqualifies employees from payment of accrued vacation if they fail to meet specific guidelines, such as giving two weeks notice. 
    • The amount of vacation time an employee can accrue may be capped by the employer.
    • Employers can implement a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy that requires employees to use their vacation time by a set date, as long as employees have reasonable time to use their vacation time. 
  • Jury Duty: Employers must provide enough leave for employees to serve as a juror, but it is not required to be paid. 
    • Employers may not penalize employees for responding to a jury summons. 
  • Holiday Leave: Private employers are not required to provide holiday leave
  • Voting Leave: No statute. 
  • Bereavement Leave: Employers are not required to provide employees bereavement leave. 

Final Paycheck

  • Employers must pay employees who are terminated, who quit or who are laid off by the end of the established pay period. 
  • There is no law regarding when employers must pay employees who are suspended or resign due to a strike. 

Minimum Wage

  • The current minimum wage in Washington is $12. 
  • The wage will increase to $13.50 on January 1, 2020. 
  • Minimum wage laws in Washington will require an annual review of the wage starting January 1, 2021. 
    • The minimum wage must be increased to reflect the cost of living changes from the prior year. 

Tipped Wages

Tipped employees must be paid the standard minimum wage rate. 

Child Labor

  • Minors 14 and 15 years of age are subject to the following time restrictions:
    • During school weeks
      • They are allowed to work 3 hours a day, 8 hours on the weekend, 16 hours a week, and 6 days a week.
      • They may only work between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
    • During non-school weeks 
      • They are allowed to work 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, and 6 days a week.
      • They may work between the between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.
  • Minors 16 and 17 years of age are subject to the following time restrictions:
    • During school weeks: 
      • They are allowed to work 4 hours a day, 8 hours from Friday to Sunday, 20 hours a week, and 6 days a week.
      • They may work between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. on weekdays and until midnight on the weekends.
    • During non-school weeks: 
      • They may work 8 hours a day, 48 hours a week, and 6 days a week.
  • Minors are prohibited from performing these duties

Meal and Rest Breaks, Overtime

  • Employers must provide adult employees at least one 30-minute meal break for every five consecutive hours worked. 
    • The first meal period must be given at least two hours into each 5-hour work period, and employees must be allowed to take subsequent meal periods sometime after the initial 5 hours of work have been performed. 
    • If employees work at least 3 hours past the time they normally end their shift, they must be provided an additional 30-minute meal period. 
    • Meal periods do not need to be paid if employees are free from work duties, but this does not mean that they must be allowed to leave the premises. 
    • Employers must pay for the meal periods if the employees:
      • Are required to remain on duty.
      • Are required to remain on the premises for the employers’ own interest.
      • Are called back to duty even if they are not normally on call during the break. 
    • If an employee’s meal period is interrupted, the employer must ensure they receive the full 30-minute break. 
    • Employees are allowed to request to waive their meal period if the employer agrees with the request. 
  • Employers are required to provide a paid rest break of at least 10 minutes for every 4 hours worked to adult employees.
    • The rest break should be scheduled as close to the midpoint of the 4 hours as possible. 
    • Employees must be free of all work duties during the break. 
    • If an intermittent rest periods are provided, the scheduled 10-minute breaks are not required. 
  • Minors 14 and 15 years of age may not be allowed to work more than 4 hours without taking a 30-minute meal break. 
    • They must also be allowed to take paid rest breaks of at least 10 minutes for every 2 hours worked. 
  • Minors 16 and 17 years of age must be provided a 30-minute meal break no less than 2 hours but no more than 5 hours from the beginning of their shift. 
    • They must be given rest periods at least every 3 hours. 

Employment Discrimination

  • The Washington State Law Against Discrimination makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, sex, marital status or the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a disabled person.
  • Click here to read our blog on what acceptable and unacceptable questions to ask during an interview.       

Termination

Washington is an employment-at-will state, which means that without a written employee contract, employees can be terminated for any reason at any time, provided that the reason is not discriminatory and that the employer is not retaliating against the employee for a rightful action. 

Shift Scheduling

There are no laws regarding shift scheduling in Washington. 

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