Federal law and state law require employers to pay non-exempt workers no less than a certain wage. State law is generally more favorable to workers than federal law (but not always!). The Washington state minimum wage automatically increases for inflation every year. In 2021, Washington state’s minimum wage is $13.69 per hour.
Under Washington law, an employer must pay minimum wage for every hour worked. When a worker is paid by the hour, this determination is made separately for every hour of work. That means, if an employer uses more than rate of pay for a worker, none of those rates can be less than minimum wage. For non-hourly workers, their average pay each week must be greater than or equal to minimum wage.
Can an employer include tips when determining minimum wage? Not under the law in Washington! Tips are freely given from the customer to the worker and the employer cannot take credit for the tips towards payment of minimum wage. An employer also cannot collect its workers tips and keep them for the company’s use. Your tips are yours unless part of there is a legitimate “tip pool” established where workers shared tips amongst themselves.
When is a worker exempt from minimum wage? There are more than a dozen types of exemptions. Some of the most common exemptions are what are called “white-collar” exemptions. Certain executives, managers, administrators, and professionals are exempt from overtime compensation if they are paid a high-enough salary. Simply being paid a salary is NOT enough to be overtime exempt.
As of 2021, the salary threshold is $3,559.40 per month at companies with less than 50 workers; the salary threshold is $4,152.63 per month at larger companies. These white-collar exemptions do not apply to you if you earn less than the salary threshold! Determining if you are an “executive,” “manager,” “administrator,” or “professional” is based on what you actually do for work, not your job title. It is a complicated determination.
What are some common ways an employer can violate the minimum wage laws? The most straight-forward way is when an employer pays a worker an hourly rate less than minimum wage. Other violations can include paying different rates of pay for different kinds of work, but one of those rates is less than minimum wage. Another common way they violate the law is when they pay employees on a non-hourly basis like by the piece (“piecework”) and they don’t ensure workers are receiving average of minimum wage if their piecework wage is below minimum wage.
Were you paid less than minimum wage? Were you non-exempt? These are questions that an experienced lawyer can help you answer. Schedule a consultation with Pechtel Law PLLC about your rights and your options.