Get your questions answered about Seattle’s labor laws

This page is also available in Vietnamese, Spanish, Amharic, and Somali.

What is the new minimum wage in Seattle?

As of January 1, 2017, your minimum wage depends on what size employer you have and what benefits they provide.

Employees of Larger Businesses (501 or more employees nationwide)

If the employer does not provide insurance to you  your minimum wage is $15 an hour.

If the employer provided insurance meet affordable care act silver standards – in which the employer pays roughly 70% of the premium – and you use that insurance your minimum wage is $13.50 an hour.

Employees of Smaller Businesses (500 or less employees nationwide)

If you do not receive at least $2.00 in tips and medical insurance per hour, your minimum wage is $13.00.

If you do receive at least $2.00 per hour in tips and medical insurance per hour, your minimum wage is $11.00.  
You must still earn a total of $13 per hour from wages, tips and health benefits.

I thought the new minimum wage in Seattle was supposed to be $15 per hour. Why is it less for me?

The new minimum wage law allows time for employers to raise wages in stages over the next few years. The minimum wage will increase a bit more on January 1, 2018, but everyone’s pay rate will be different depending on the size of your employer and whether or not they contribute to a health plan. Small businesses (500 employees or less) can take longer to increase to $15, while large companies that offer medical insurance reached $15 on January 1, 2017.

What if I work in Seattle sometimes, but not all the time? Will I still be covered by the minimum wage law?

If you spend at least two hours working in Seattle during your two week pay period, you will be paid minimum wage. If you drive through Seattle during work hours but aren’t required to stop for work assignments, you won’t be covered. It is best to keep track of your hours to make sure you can prove that you spent time working in Seattle.

If I live or work outside of Seattle, what is my minimum wage?

The minimum wage in Washington State is $11.00 per hour. The minimum wage in Tacoma is $11.15 per hour. And the minimum wage in Seatac for hotel and airport-related jobs is $15.34 per hour. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.

I’m looking for more information about Seattle’s minimum wage. Where should I go?

You can call Fair Work Center staff at 1-844-485-1195. You can also visit the Seattle Office of Labor Standards website.

What is paid sick and safe time (PSST)?

PSST allows almost all workers in Seattle to take paid time off to care of themselves or of family members who are sick.

Am I eligible for paid sick and safe time?

In workplaces where there are at least five full-time employees, everyone is eligible for paid sick and safe time. That includes full-time, part-time, and temporary employees.

How does paid sick and safe time work?

Anyone at a workplace with five or more employees will earn paid leave throughout the year. You will earn paid leave by the hour, not by the day.

When can I start using my paid leave?

You will start to accumulate your paid leave hours as soon as you begin your job. You can’t, however, start to use your paid leave until you’ve been working at your job for at least 180 days (six months).

How much should I be paid when I need to take sick leave?

When taking sick leave, you should be paid your regular hourly rate, which cannot be less than Seattle’s minimum wage. When on sick leave, employers are not required to pay workers lost tips or commissions.

How many paid sick and safe time days do I get each year?

Employees who work at small businesses will earn one hour of paid time for every 40 hours worked—or one hour per typical work week. Employees at large businesses earn one hour of paid time for every 30 hours worked.

Example: 1 hour for every 40-hour work week, multiplied by 52 weeks per year is (1 x 52 = 52 / 8 hours per day) = 6.5 PSST days per year

Example: 1 hour for each 30-hour work week, multiplied by 52 weeks per year means that paid leave accrues 25% faster at large businesses versus small ones. Paid sick time adds up to roughly 8 days per year for employees at large businesses.

Who is considered ‘family’ under paid sick and safe time law?

Spouses, domestic partners, parents, children, grandparents, and adults who are related by blood or marriage are considered to be family under the PSST law.

Do I need a doctor’s note to take paid sick and safe time?

If you need to take paid leave for more than three days in a row, your employer can ask for reasonable documentation. In that case, a doctor’s note would be sufficient.

What does ‘safe time’ mean?

Safe time under PSST refers to time spent dealing with situations involving one’s safety. Examples could include domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking—both on behalf of yourself or family members. The law also includes paid leave when there is a public health or safety emergency, such as an incident at a child’s school.

Can I be punished or fired for requesting to take paid sick or safe time?

Employers cannot punish or fire workers for taking protected paid leave, nor can they count paid leave as an unexcused absence.  Only when an employee displays a ‘clear pattern of abuse’ (such as taking several days off without reasonable documentation) can an employer take disciplinary action.

What should I do if my employer is threatening to fire me, or telling me I can’t use my paid leave?

You can contact the Seattle Office of Civil Rights and file a complaint. You can also call Fair Work Center at 1-844-485-1195 for help.

What is wage theft?

Wage theft is when an employer withholds all or part of a paycheck, including tips or overtime, for time that an employee has already worked and earned wages.

What is required of employers under the wage theft law?

Employers must pay their workers in full for all hours worked, including tips or overtime, and always at least the minimum wage. Employers must also keep payroll records for at least three years, and provide written explanation to workers about pay rates and deductions for each pay period.

My last employer didn‘t pay me for the last two weeks of work, but now I don’t work there anymore. Can I still file a complaint?

Yes. Wage theft complaints can go back as far as three years.

If I file a wage theft complaint, what happens next?

The Seattle Office of Labor Standards will investigate your complaint, and if they find that wage theft has occurred, they will order the employer to pay back wages and tips, including interest, and possibly penalties. In some serious cases, police will investigate and the employer could face jail time.

Where can I find more information about the wage theft laws?

You can contact the Fair Work Center at 1-844-485-1195. You can also visit the Seattle Office of Labor Standards website.

What does ‘ban the box’ or ‘fair chance employment’ mean?

The Seattle Fair Chance Employment law, commonly referred to as the ‘ban the box’ law, prohibits Seattle employers from asking job applicants up front about their arrest or conviction history. Employers can ask later on in the application process, but must cite a legitimate business reason to deny employment based on the applicant’s arrest or conviction history. This law is meant to help people who have criminal records maintain access to job opportunities, which is proven to help prevent repeat acts of crime.

Under Fair Chance Employment (‘Ban the Box’), what are employers allowed to ask about?

While employers are not allowed to ask applicants about criminal records on the first round of application or interviews, they may ask about criminal records as part of standard background checks after they have conducted a screen to eliminate applicants solely based on qualifications for the job. If you don’t meet the basic qualifications for the job, an employer is permitted to eliminate you from the pool of applicants.

If I do have a criminal record, how does the law help me?

If you have a criminal record, you have the right to explain or clarify the circumstances of your record before an employer eliminates you from a qualified pool of applicants.

If I want to apply for a job, but I see a question on the application about my criminal record, what do I do?

You can call Fair Work Center for help at 1-844-485-1195. You can also contact the Seattle Office of Labor Standards to file a complaint.

Still have questions about your rights?

We can help.