2020 Legal Updates for Employers

February 19, 2020

Employment law updates in 2020

Being an employer can be difficult in today’s environment. Employers often struggle to stay compliant and adaptive in today’s increasingly regulated business environment. Below are just a few legal updates that are important for 2020.

New Standards for Overtime

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the federal law that governs whether employees are exempt from overtime pay and minimum wage requirements. Based upon the type of work performed and the amount paid, certain employees may be exempt from FLSA rules related to overtime and minimum wage. To be exempt, bona fide executive, administrative, professional, outside sales, certain computer employees, and certain highly compensated employees must be paid at least a threshold amount on a salary basis. In September 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a final rule which increased the salary threshold for exempt employees to at least $684 per week ($35,568 annually). Non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) paid on an annual or more frequent basis may be used to satisfy up to 10% of the salary requirement. The new rule goes into effect on January 1, 2020.

Regardless of their job title, employees who earn less than $684 per
week as of January 1, 2020, must be paid at least time and one-half
their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek.
More detailed information regarding the salary requirements adopted
by the DOL may be found at www.dol.gov/whd/overtime/fs17g_salary.pdf.

The Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) has also proposed new rules which would increase the salary threshold for determining whether certain employees are exempt from state overtime laws. As proposed, the threshold level of pay would increase incrementally beginning July 1, 2020, and continue to increase until 2026 to a total of 2.5 times the minimum wage. L&I expects to announce a final decision regarding the proposed rule this month. More information regarding the state proposal may be found at lni.wa.gov/workers-rights/wages/overtime/changes-to-overtime-rules.

When dealing with state and federal laws that have varying or conflicting standards, employers are required to apply the law that offers the most protection to the employee. As of January 1st, the federal threshold level for determining exemption status will offer the most protection to employees, but that will likely change in the near future.

You can click here to read more about communicating to employees about their exempt or nonexempt status.

New Paid Leave

Starting on January 1, 2020, Washington employees will be able to apply to the Employment Security Department for paid leave benefits when the employee needs to be out of the workplace for a qualifying reason. Employees may be eligible to receive a portion of their wages (up to $1000
per week) if they need time away for bonding with a new baby in the home, to care for the serious health condition of a family member, to care for the employee’s own serious health condition, or to deal with a qualifying military exigency need. Employees will be required to provide their employer with written notice of their need to take leave and will apply for benefits through the Employment Security Department.

Employers may choose to allow their employees to supplement any state-provided benefits with employer-provided benefits, such as PTO, vacation, or sick leave. This “topping off” may bring the employee up to 100% of their wages, or even over 100% if the employer allows the employee to take full advantage of the employer-provided benefit. Some employees may also be entitled to continued health insurance benefits and have job restoration rights if the employee works for an employer that has 50 or more employees (not just employees located in Washington), the employee has worked for the employer for 12 months and has worked 1250 hours in the 12 months preceding the need for leave.

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