Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Washington to Let More Workers Qualify for Overtime

This is the first update in 40 years

Today, the Washington Department of Labor and Industries has released new overtime regulations. Washington had not updated the regulations since 1976.

EOI was among the stakeholders that weighed in with research and analysis, aiding the Department in drafting this update to the regulations, which will gradually increase the overtime threshold to 2.5 times 40 hours of minimum wage by 2028 – the equivalent of $70,000 annually in today’s dollars. Historically, the Washington overtime threshold has been more than 3 times 40 hours per week at minimum wage.

The Department gathered extensive input from across the state, including many workers not making a living wage, despite working long hours.

“Overtime pay protects both the income and the time of salaried employees. Right now, people are working 55-hour workweeks and longer, on call 24-7, for less than minimum wage. Employers can even deny them sick leave. With these new standards, employers will have to choose between paying workers appropriately and honoring a 40-hour work week. And people can stay home if they have the flu or a sick child,” says EOI Policy Director Marilyn Watkins.

Since the 1970s, the salary threshold for being an overtime-exempt “white collar” worker has steadily eroded, causing the share of full-time salaried workers guaranteed overtime to plummet from 63% in the 1970s to less than 7% today. As a result, salaried employees like assistant managers at fast food chains or retail stores are denied overtime, minimum wage, sick and safe leave, and other basic protections even when they spend much of their time performing the same tasks as the overtime-eligible employees they supervise.

Link to detailed information about changes.

“The Trump administration continues to attack regulations that watch out for hardworking Americans. Washington State, however, holds firm to the ideal that people should be paid for their work, and should not be coerced into working dozens of hours for free. That’s not only better for the health of workers and their families, it helps businesses, too, by increasing productivity and decreasing burn-out and workplace accidents,” says Watkins.

Salaried employees below the new threshold will also be covered by Washington’s paid sick and safe leave law, approved by voters in 2016.

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