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Overtime Pay Laws Washington State: 2024 Guide

9 min read
washington overtime pay laws

As we move into 2024, it’s essential for all parties involved in the labor market to be well-informed about changes in overtime pay laws.

This guide highlights the key updates to Washington State’s overtime pay laws, and what they mean for workers. Employees and employers can both benefit from staying informed so they can avoid legal pitfalls.


Background of Washington State Overtime Laws

It all started with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938, which established overtime pay in Washington State. It set many of the wage standards we take for granted today, including minimum wage, recordkeeping, and overtime pay. Historically, Washington State has mirrored or expanded federal guidelines, tailoring them to meet its workforce’s needs.

However, over the years, the state’s overtime laws have changed a lot, reflecting changes in the workplace and economy. Laws like these have always been designed to protect workers from excessively long work hours and make sure they get paid fairly.

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Key Changes in Overtime Rules for Washington State

The most recent and significant overtime changes went into effect on July 1, 2020. To keep up with the changing labor landscape, these changes modernized and strengthened overtime protections.

The key changes include:


Increased Salary Threshold

A big change in Washington State’s overtime rules is the new minimum salary threshold. Salary employees must earn this amount to be exempt from overtime pay. From July 1, 2020, this threshold will increase incrementally until it reaches 2.5 times the state minimum wage in 2028. There’s a different implementation schedule based on the size of the employer, with a slower phase-in for smaller businesses. As a result, more salaried employees who previously didn’t qualify for overtime pay due to their earnings level are now eligible.

Revised Job Duties Tests

The job duties tests for exempt employees have also been revised. Employees need to pass these tests to find out if they’re exempt from overtime pay. The updated rules have streamlined the criteria, combining what were previously two separate tests into one. It’s more in line with federal standards and focuses on the duties an employee performs, not their job title. This revision aims to simplify the classification process and make sure employees are classified correctly.

Special Provisions for Certain Professions

Executive, Administrative, and Professional Employees: These groups are traditionally considered exempt if they meet certain criteria. In addition to meeting the salary threshold, their primary duties must involve high-level responsibilities as defined by the updated tests.

Computer Professionals: Special considerations have been made for computer professionals. The rules distinguish between those paid hourly and those on a salary. By 2028, salaried computer professionals will need to earn at least 2.5 times the state minimum wage to be exempt, while those paid hourly will have a different threshold.

Outside Salespeople: The definition and criteria for outside salespeople have been refined. Under the new rules, these employees must primarily sell or get contracts and work away from the employer’s office. Outside salespeople aren’t subject to the salary threshold, but they have to be paid a guaranteed salary, commission, or fee.

New Overtime Rules: Implementation Timeline in Washington State

The new overtime rules in Washington State will be implemented in phases through 2028. This gradual approach is designed to give both employers and employees time to adjust to the changes. The timeline is particularly important for understanding when certain salary thresholds and job duty criteria come into effect.

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Detailed Schedule of the Phased Implementation Until 2028

  • 2020 to 2028: The implementation began on July 1, 2020. After this date, the minimum salary threshold for exempt employees started to go up incrementally. It’ll keep going up until 2028 when it’s 2.5 times the state minimum wage.
  • Yearly Increments: Each year, the salary threshold increases, gradually expanding the number of employees who qualify for overtime pay. These increments are set at predetermined levels, ensuring a predictable and steady rise.
  • Final Threshold in 2028: By the end of the implementation period in 2028, the salary threshold for exempt employees will be firmly established at 2.5 times the state minimum wage, significantly higher than the threshold prior to 2020.

Differences in Implementation for Small vs. Large Businesses

  • Definition of Business Sizes: A small business is one with fewer than 50 employees, and a large business is one with 51 or more.
  • Pace of Implementation: Small businesses have a slower pace of implementation compared to large businesses. The idea is to ease the financial and administrative burden on smaller companies.
  • Different Thresholds: At each stage of the implementation, small businesses have a slightly lower salary threshold for exempt employees compared to large businesses. Until 2028, a small business can have a lower salary threshold for exemption than a big one.

Washington State’s structured timeline and differentiation based on business size show the state’s commitment to a balanced approach, accommodating different kinds of businesses while gradually improving worker protections.

Criteria for Exemption for Washington Employees

There are three parts to figuring out whether an employee is exempt from overtime pay in Washington State. This test assesses salary basis, salary level, and job duties. Understanding these criteria is crucial for employers to classify their employees correctly and for employees to know their rights.

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Salary Basis Test

  • Definition: In the salary basis test, employees are paid a fixed salary that isn’t subject to change based on quality or quantity of work.
  • Implication: Each pay period, the employee gets a set amount of money, regardless of how many hours he or she works.

Salary Level Test

  • Definition: The salary level test sets a minimum amount that an employee must earn to be exempt from overtime. This threshold is increasing annually until 2028.
  • Implication: If you earn less than this threshold, you’re generally entitled to overtime pay, regardless of what you do.

Job Duties Test

  • Definition: This test examines the actual duties an employee performs. To qualify for exemption, an employee’s primary duties must be executive, administrative, professional, computer-related, or outside sales.
  • Implication: The nature of the work, rather than the job title, determines exemption status. Duties must involve discretion, decision-making, and a higher level of professional skill or management.

Examples of Positions Affected by These Criteria

  • Managers and Supervisors (Executive): Typically, these roles involve managing a department or subdivision, directing the work of at least two full-time employees, and having the authority to hire or fire. Under the new rules, these positions may still be exempt, provided they meet the increased salary threshold.
  • Administrative Staff: Employees in this category perform office or non-manual work directly related to management or general business operations. They must exercise discretion and independent judgment on significant matters. With the new rules, more administrative staff might be eligible for overtime if their salary does not meet the updated threshold.
  • Professionals: This category includes learned or artistic professionals whose work requires advanced knowledge in a field of science or learning, or creativity in artistic endeavors. The new rules could affect professionals like accountants, engineers, and graphic designers, depending on their salary and specific job duties.
  • Computer Professionals: Employees in this category, such as software engineers or IT analysts, may be exempt if they meet certain criteria related to their job duties and salary level. The new rules particularly impact this group due to the specific provisions for computer-related occupations.
  • Outside Salespeople: These employees must primarily be engaged in making sales or obtaining orders away from the employer’s place of business. They are exempt from both the salary level and basis tests but must meet certain criteria in their duties.

By carefully applying these criteria, employers can ensure compliance with the updated overtime laws, and employees can better understand their rights under these regulations.

Employer Compliance Strategies with Updated Overtime Rules in Washington State

With the updated overtime rules in Washington State, employers need to adopt strategies to ensure compliance. These strategies not only help in adhering to the law but also in managing the potential increase in labor costs and maintaining operational efficiency.

Options for Employers to Comply with the New Rules

  • Adjusting Salaries: Employers can increase the salaries of employees who are close to the new threshold to maintain their exempt status. This is particularly viable for employees whose salary is slightly below the new threshold but whose job duties meet the exemption criteria.
  • Reclassifying Employees: For employees who no longer meet the exemption criteria, employers can reclassify them as non-exempt. This means they will be eligible for overtime pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek.
  • Managing Work Hours: Employers can implement stricter work hour policies to control overtime. This includes ensuring that non-exempt employees do not work more than 40 hours per week unless necessary.
  • Using Time-Tracking Tools: Implementing or upgrading time-tracking systems can help in accurately recording the hours worked by non-exempt employees, which is crucial for compliance.

Strategies for Reclassifying Employees and Managing Overtime Costs

  • Conducting a Job Duties Audit: Review the job duties of employees to ensure they align with the exemption criteria. This audit can help in deciding whether to reclassify employees or adjust their salaries.
  • Flexible Staffing Arrangements: Consider part-time, temporary, or contract workers to manage workload peaks without incurring overtime costs.
  • Training for Managers: Educate managers and supervisors on the importance of monitoring and managing work hours to prevent unauthorized overtime.
  • Clear Communication with Employees: Clearly communicate any changes in employment status, work hours, or job duties to employees. Transparency helps in maintaining morale and reducing confusion.

Legal Implications of Non-Compliance

  • Financial Penalties: Employers who fail to comply with the overtime rules may face fines and be required to pay back wages owed to employees.
  • Legal Actions: Non-compliance can lead to lawsuits, including class-action suits, which can be costly and damage the company’s reputation.
  • Audits and Investigations: The Department of Labor & Industries may conduct audits or investigations, leading to further scrutiny and potential legal issues.
  • Impact on Employee Relations: Non-compliance can negatively affect employee morale and trust, leading to a higher turnover rate and a less engaged workforce.

By adopting these strategies, employers can navigate the complexities of the updated overtime rules, ensuring legal compliance while effectively managing their workforce and operational costs.

Employee Rights and Protections from the Updated Overtime Laws in Washington State

The updated overtime laws in Washington State not only redefine the criteria for overtime pay but also strengthen the rights and protections for employees. Understanding these rights is crucial for employees to ensure they are fairly compensated for their work.

Explanation of Rights for Employees Under the New Laws

  • Right to Overtime Pay: Non-exempt employees have the right to receive overtime pay at a rate of one and a half times their regular rate of pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek.
  • Right to Proper Classification: Employees have the right to be correctly classified based on their salary and job duties. Misclassification can lead to a denial of overtime pay and other benefits.
  • Transparent Salary and Job Duties Information: Employees are entitled to clear information regarding their employment status, including their classification as exempt or non-exempt, their salary, and a detailed description of their job duties.
  • Protection from Retaliation: Employees are protected from retaliation by their employer for asserting their rights under these laws, including filing a complaint or participating in an investigation.

Guidance on What Employees Should Do If They Believe Their Rights Are Being Violated

  • Document the Situation: Keep detailed records of hours worked, job duties, and any communications with the employer regarding classification and pay.
  • Internal Reporting: Initially, address the concern with the employer directly. This can be through a supervisor, human resources department, or a designated compliance officer.
  • Seek Information and Assistance: Utilize resources provided by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. They offer guidance and can clarify rights and obligations under the law.
  • File a Complaint: If internal reporting does not resolve the issue, employees can file a complaint with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. This can be done anonymously if necessary.
  • Legal Consultation: In cases where the issue is not resolved or if the employee faces retaliation, consulting with an attorney specializing in labor law can be a prudent step.
  • Participate in Investigations: If an investigation is conducted by the Department of Labor & Industries or another agency, employees should participate and provide any necessary information.

By understanding and exercising these rights, employees can help ensure that they are fairly compensated according to the law and that their workplace adheres to the legal standards set by the updated overtime rules.

Here are other important articles related to Washington:

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FAQ For Washington State Overtime Laws

1. What are the key changes in Washington State’s overtime laws?

The main changes include an increased salary threshold for exempt employees and revised job duties tests. These changes are being phased in until 2028.

2. What is the new salary threshold for overtime exemption?

The salary threshold is incrementally increasing each year until it reaches 2.5 times the state minimum wage in 2028. The exact amount varies each year and differs for small and large businesses.

3. How are job duties tests for exempt employees revised?

The revised job duties tests focus more on the actual duties performed rather than job titles. Employees must primarily engage in executive, administrative, professional, computer-related, or outside sales duties to qualify for exemption.

4. Who is affected by these overtime law changes?

The changes impact a range of professionals, including managers, administrative staff, learned professionals, computer professionals, and outside salespeople.

5. What is the implementation timeline for these changes?

The changes began in 2020 and will continue until 2028, with annual increases in the salary threshold. The pace of implementation is slower for small businesses.

6. What should employers do to comply with the new overtime rules?

Employers can adjust salaries, reclassify employees, manage work hours, and use time-tracking tools to ensure compliance.

7. What are the legal implications for employers if they don’t comply?

Non-compliance can lead to financial penalties, legal actions, audits, and negative impacts on employee relations.

8. What rights do employees have under the new overtime laws?

Employees have the right to proper classification, overtime pay, transparent information about their employment status, and protection from retaliation.

9. What should employees do if they believe their rights are violated?

Employees should document the situation, report internally, seek information and assistance, file a complaint if necessary, and consider legal consultation.

10. Where can employers and employees find more information and resources?

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries website, legal aid organizations, industry-specific guides, and training sessions are valuable resources.

11. How should businesses prepare for future changes beyond 2024?

Businesses should stay informed about legal updates, adapt to technological and work-life balance trends, and anticipate potential regulatory adjustments.

12. Will remote work affect overtime laws?

The rise in remote work could lead to new considerations in overtime calculation and monitoring, potentially influencing future regulations.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment here, and our HR Specialist will respond as soon as possible.

HR Expert | Talent Management Enthusiast. You've found the right place! I'm Jose Sanchez, your expert HR guide with extensive experience in HR insight and talent management. I write about how businesses can thrive by nurturing and leveraging their talent. When I'm not immersed in HR, I love to explore the fascinating worlds of physics and psychology.

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