The Department of Labor & Industries announced an increase in the state minimum wage to $16.24/hour, effective January 1, 2024. Washington’s minimum wage is annually adjusted to inflation. The minimum wage for 14- to 16-year-olds will also be adjusted to $13.84/hour in 2024. Some cities have set higher local minimum wages.
With the annual adjustment of the minimum wage, also comes the annual adjustment to the overtime exemption threshold. The 2024 threshold will be 2x the minimum wage, or at least $1,302.40/week ($67,724.80/year), to avoid overtime.
The overtime exemption threshold is calculated as a multiplier of the minimum wage, and L&I is currently in the midst of an eight-year implementation schedule to increase the multiplier to 2.5x minimum wage.
You can find more information here: Minimum Wage
Governor Jay Inslee has signed ESSB 5123, which will prohibit Washington employers from requiring pre-employment testing for non-psychoactive cannabis (marijuana) metabolites of applicants who lawfully consume cannabis away from work, except under limited circumstances, effective January 1, 2024. It creates a new protected group and makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against these lawful cannabis consumers in the hiring process, unless one of the limited exceptions is present. However, the bill doesn’t affect any employer’s rights or obligations to maintain a drug-free and alcohol-free workplace, comply with federal laws or regulations, or test current employees for drugs (including cannabis). The bill also specifies that if a state or federal law requires an applicant to be tested for controlled substances, that law takes priority over the new bill.
Employers may still test job candidates for non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites when they are seeking certain positions in law enforcement or as first responders. In addition, the bill contains three exceptions that may be relevant to manufacturers:
Find more information here: Vigilant Blog | WASHINGTON: New bill limits most pre-employment cannabis tests
SSB 5217: Authorizes L&I to develop workplace ergonomic safety rules. Effective July 23, 2023, this bill repeals the existing prohibition on ergonomic safety regulations in Washington and authorizes L&I to issue regulations to prevent work-related musculoskeletal injuries and disorders. The bill limits the scope of L&I’s authority to regulate ergonomics to industries with a high frequency of ergonomic injuries, and limits the frequency of new rules to once per year per industry. Vigilant expects that L&I will exercise its new authority to issue regulations and we will keep members informed when they do so.
ESSB 5320: Requires electrician trainees to go through an apprenticeship program. Effective July 1, 2023, trainees who don’t have 3,000 hours of experience must be registered apprentices to perform work limited to electricians. Effective July 1, 2026, all electrical trainees must be registered in an approved apprenticeship program. Additional requirements that take effect on July 1, 2023, are already contained in RCWs 19.28.161, 191 and 195. See L&I’s webpage on electrician licensing, which has been updated to reflect the new law.
ESHB 1106: Unemployment benefits for voluntary resignations. Allows more individuals to qualify for unemployment benefits by expanding the good cause reasons for voluntarily leaving work. For separations on or after September 3, 2023, the existing allowance for good cause to leave work due to the death, illness, or disability of a claimant’s “immediate family” expands to apply to any family member. For separations that occur on or after July 7, 2024, and before July 8, 2029, good cause includes the unavailability of care for a child or a vulnerable adult in the claimant’s care. In both situations, to qualify for unemployment benefits, the claimant must first seek a change in working conditions or work schedule to accommodate the death, illness, disability, or unavailability of care, or request a leave of absence, and must promptly request reemployment when able to return to work. For separations that occur on or after July 7, 2024, good cause also includes relocating to follow a minor child who moved outside of the claimant’s labor market, or situations in which the claimant had a regularly scheduled start or end time for the prior 90 calendar days and the employer (without request by the claimant and not based on a system of seniority) changes the regularly scheduled start or end time by six or more hours on a non-temporary basis. This bill takes effect July 23, 2023.
HB 1262: Child support withholding from lump sum payments. Adopts a program for employers to deduct child support from lump sum payments when an employee is in arrears for child support. Lump sum payments don’t include reimbursement for expenses. Examples of lump sum payments include discretionary and nondiscretionary bonuses, commissions, performance bonuses, merit increases, safety awards, signing bonuses, moving and relocation incentive payments, holiday pay, termination pay, and severance pay. Lump sum payments also include workers’ compensation time loss payments, insurance settlements, and personal injury settlements paid as replacement for wages owed. The bill establishes procedures for notifying the Division of Child Support and determining how much to withhold. This bill takes effect July 23, 2023. We will be updating our Legal Guide, Washington Wage Withholding Handbook.
SHB 1217: Interest charged on settled wage complaints. Requires the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) to charge one percent interest per month on all amounts owed on settlements of wage complaints even when no citation and notice of assessment is issued. The employee may request a waiver or reduction of interest as part of the settlement process. This bill applies to all wage complaints filed on or after January 1, 2024.
SSHB 1491: Prohibition on searches of employees’ personal vehicles. Generally prohibits employers from searching employees’ personal vehicles located on the employer’s parking lots or garages or located on the access road to those parking lots or garages. The bill provides for limited exceptions to this prohibition: (1) vehicles owned or leased by the employer; (2) lawful searches by law enforcement officers; (3) when the employer requires or allows an employee to use their personal vehicle for work-related activities and the employer needs to inspect the vehicle to ensure it’s suited to conduct the work-related activities; (4) when a reasonable person would believe that accessing an employee’s vehicle is necessary to prevent an immediate threat to human health, life, or safety; (5) when an employee consents to a search by the business owner, owner’s agent, or a licensed private security guard based on “probable cause” (a high legal standard) that the employee unlawfully possesses employer property or a controlled substance in violation of both federal law and the employer’s written policy prohibiting drug use—an employee who consents to such a search may select a witness to be present; (6) security inspections on state and federal military property; (7) vehicles located on the premises of a state correctional institution; or (8) “specific employer areas subject to searches under state or federal law.” You cannot require, as a condition of employment, that an employee or prospective employee waive the right to the protections under the new law. You should review and update any policy language on searches (such as in your drug and alcohol policy) to ensure they comply with the new law. This bill takes effect July 23, 2023.
SB 5111: Paid sick leave cash-out for construction workers. Requires employers to pay any unused and accrued paid sick leave to covered construction workers who separate from employment before reaching the 90-day threshold to use paid sick leave. The bill generally applies to workers covered under North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code 23 (construction), but carves out an exception for residential building construction, which the bill describes as NAICS code 236100. This appears to be a mistake, since there is no NAICS code 236100, but the 2022 NAICS database lists 2361 as the code for residential building construction, so we recommend reviewing the definition for code 2361 to determine whether the exception applies. This bill takes effect January 1, 2024.
SSB 5286: Washington Paid Family and Medical leave (WPFML) rate calculation changes. Changes the date the state calculates the upcoming WPFML premium rates from September 30 to on or around October 20 each year and also changes the method of calculating the premium rate. This bill takes effect July 23, 2023.
SSB 5586: Access to certain Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave (WPFML) information. Allows interested parties including current employers and their third-party administrators to get the following WPFML claim information from the Employment Security Department (ESD): type of leave being taken; requested duration of leave including the approved dates of leave; and whether the employee was approved for benefits and paid benefits for any given week. Any information provided may only be used to administer internal employer leave or benefit practices under established employer policies. ESD may investigate unauthorized use of these records. This bill takes effect January 1, 2024.
In particular, you should ensure that your search policies and practices comply with SSHB 1491’s restrictions on searches of employees’ personal vehicles.
Find full information here: Vigilant Blog | WASHINGTON: Governor signs 2023 legislation, Vigilant Blog | WASHINGTON: More bills signed from 2023 legislative session
Brief Description: The purpose of this rulemaking is to update the outdoor heat exposure rules under chapter 296-62 WAC, General Occupational Health Standards, and chapter 296-307 WAC, Safety Standards for Agriculture. On June 28, 2021, L&I received a petition for rulemaking requesting changes to L&I’s rules to include more specific requirements to prevent heat-related illness and injury. The petition for rulemaking was accepted recognizing the need to reexamine the current rules, especially in light of information suggesting the occurrence of heat illnesses below the current trigger temperatures and the increasing temperatures experienced in our state since the rule was first established in 2008.
L&I filed emergency rules related to outdoor ambient heat in the summer of 2021 and 2022 to protect outdoor workers from heat-related illnesses due to outdoor heat exposure. The current rules do not affirmatively address preventative measures to avoid overheating other than access to drinking water. The hazards of heat are well documented and research suggests the occurrence of heat-related illnesses below the current trigger temperatures. Research also documents increased temperatures in Washington since the rule was first established.
The adopted updates add the importance of acclimatization and considerations for cool-down rest periods, gradual increase of work in the heat and importance that employees are unable to build tolerance to working in the heat. They also add the importance of taking preventative cool-down rest periods, and mandatory rest periods when temperatures exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit. They add training requirements for procedures for shade or other means to reduce body temperature, and employer’s procedures for close observation of employees. Finally, they add the importance of considering the use of engineering or administrative controls to reduce exposure.
Effective date: July 17, 2023
Additional information about this rulemaking:CR-103 Adoption
Final Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA)
Concise Explanatory Statement (CES)
A summary of the ruling is here: AP: The Supreme Court bolsters protections for workers who ask for religious accommodations
Here’s the takeaway: We shouldn’t be relying on Hardison’s “de minimis” language to deny requests for religious accommodations that would have a relatively minor impact on operations. Rather, we should look at whether granting a proposed religious accommodation would impose “substantial additional costs” on the employer’s business. Said differently, for religious accommodations, we shouldn’t be denying proposed accommodations if they would only have a very minimal impact/cost on operations.
Opinion of the court: GERALD E. GROFF, PETITIONER v. LOUIS DEJOY, POSTMASTER GENERAL