Legal changes taking place in 2019

January 29, 2019

Employment law remains one of the most consistently changing areas of law, and 2019 is no exception. Notably, Washington is looking at several impactful changes that will affect employers within the state:

Minimum Wage Increase

As a reminder, the minimum wage increased in Washington on January 1, 2019 to $12.00. In 2020, the minimum wage will increase to $13.50 per hour. Thereafter wage increases will be tied to the Consumer Price Index. These changes are the result of a voter-approved initiative. Keep mind that certain cities, like Seattle, have their own (higher) minimum wage. Small employers with employees performing work in Seattle must comply with a minimum wage of $12.00 (with benefits/tips) or $15.00 (without benefits/tips). Large Seattle employers must pay a minimum wage of $16.00. Tacoma and Sea-tac also have similar minimum wage requirements. For specific information about which wage might apply to your workers, please call our legal department for more information or view additional information through the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries webpage.

Paid Family Leave

Washington’s Paid Family Leave allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave for their own serious health condition, or those of a family member. Leave could be as long as 16 weeks for combined family and medical leave, with up to 2 additional weeks for pregnancy complications. Important dates to watch:

  • January 1, 2019, premium collection began.
  • April 1, 2019, Employer reporting will begin.
  • January 1, 2020, Employee benefits will be available.

For more information join us for a webinar on February 13, 2019 from 10:00 – 11:30 am.

Updated Salary Requirements for Exempt Workers

In order to qualify as “exempt” under wage and hour laws, workers must perform certain types of job duties and must be paid a specified minimum weekly salary that is not subject to deduction (with a few exceptions). These levels have not been changed in many years and have become outdated. The federal salary for Executive, Administrative or Professional (EAP) employees is currently $455 per week ($23,660) and the state level is only $250 ($13,000). Even at the federal level salary, this is less than Washington minimum wage for full-time work.

 As a result, both the state and the federal government have looked at increasing the salary threshold to a more realistic number for exempt workers. Employers will undoubtedly remember a few years ago when the federal government tried to change the salary basis, increasing the level to nearly $48,000 annually. The change was struck down by a federal court in the 11th hour, and the federal rules have been in limbo since that time. The DOL is expected to issue a new rule in the Spring of 2019, but will likely use a much lower salary threshold (potentially in the low to mid $30,000+ range).

Meanwhile, the State of Washington has moved forward with its EAP salary increase rules, which are expected to be finalized also in 2019. The final rules have not yet been issued however the Department is currently proposing to raise the salary level to 2 – 2.5 times the minimum wage for a forty-hour workweek. In 2020, this would be a range of $56,160 to $70,200 – higher than the previously proposed federal levels. LNI intends for the updated rule to have an effective date of January 1, 2020.

Written By: 

Nicole Tedrow, Chief Legal Counsel 

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