L&I hearings to begin in Western Washington, starting Monday in Tumwater
TUMWATER (July 12, 2019) — Washington state is poised to close a gigantic loophole in the state’s wage-and-hour laws, and help its citizens bring their working lives back into balance. The state Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) has proposed to restore overtime pay rights — and the 40-hour workweek — for hundreds of thousands of Washington’s working families.
Next week in Western Washington, L&I begins another round of public hearings on its proposal. All union and community supporters of restoring overtime pay and getting our time back are urged to attend these hearings, which will be held Monday in Tumwater, Tuesday in Seattle, and Wednesday in Bellingham.
TAKE A STAND — Please attend and speak in support of restoring overtime pay. Sign in at the hearing, which begins with a review of the proposal by L&I and then proceeds to public comment. It is not interactive. Commenters will not be asked questions; they can simply make a statement on the proposal.
Here is the full hearing schedule: (Check L&I’s Overtime Rulemaking web page for more details.)
- TUMWATER — Monday, July 15 at 1 p.m. at L&I headquarters, 7273 Linderson Way SW
- SEATTLE — Tuesday, July 16 at 9 a.m. at The Swedish Club, 1920 Dexter Ave N
- BELLINGHAM — Wednesday, July 17 at 9 a.m. at Four Points by Sheraton Bellingham Hotel & Conference Center, 714 Lakeway Dr
- ELLENSBURG — Monday, Aug. 5 at 9 a.m. at Hal Holmes Community Center, 201 Ruby St
- KENNEWICK — Tuesday, Aug. 6 at 9 a.m. at Springhill Suites by Marriot Kennewick Tri-Cities, 7048 W Grandridge Blvd
- SPOKANE — Wednesday, Aug. 7 at 9 a.m. at CenterPlace Regional Event Center, 2426 N Discovery Pl
- VANCOUVER — Thursday, Aug. 15 at 9 a.m. at the Clark College Columbia Tech Center, 18700 S.E. Mill Plain Blvd
BACKGROUND — Salaried employees, who are denied time-and-a-half pay for work beyond 40 hours per week, are supposed to be higher-paid managers and executives. That’s why the rules establish an an overtime salary threshold, below which salaried workers in the state must be eligible for overtime pay. That way workers who make less than that threshold can’t be forced to work 60 or more hours a week, but get paid nothing for their overtime work.
The rules for overtime pay have not been updated for more than 40 years and are significantly out of date.
The current overtime salary threshold, last updated and adjusted for inflation in 1976, is $23,660 per year. That’s less than what a full-time minimum wage worker in Washington earns today. So anyone who earns more than $23,660 — which is everyone who works full time — can be declared an “exempt” salaried employees and forced to work additional hours beyond 40 per week for free. In the decades that the salary threshold has been frozen in Washington state and across the nation, the percentage of salaried American workers eligible for overtime pay has gone from more than 60% in the 1970s to less than 7% today. That’s why several states, including Alaska, California, Oregon and several others, have higher overtime salary thresholds than the federal level.
Now, Washington state is poised to update its state laws and restore overtime pay.
L&I has proposed to gradually increase the overtime salary threshold to 2.5 times the state minimum wage by 2026. That would mean anyone making less than about $80,000 per year seven years from now, or about $70,000 in today’s dollars, would get time-and-a-half pay beyond 40 hours per week.
“As working families struggle to pay the bills, they have been working longer and longer hours, sometimes for free because of our outdated overtime pay rules,” said Larry Brown, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “This update is badly needed so companies can’t exempt so many workers from the 40-hour workweek. It will mean extra pay for some, but importantly, it will help many people in Washington get their time back, too.”
Brown added that L&I’s proposed rule will help restore some balance to the working lives of thousands of Washington families.
“When your workweek never ends, your life becomes a constant scramble, and it’s almost impossible to maintain your health, care for your family, and make some time for yourself,” Brown said. “But when an employer has to pay more for extra work hours, it means more parents have more time for their children, more neighbors have time for their communities, and more people have time to pursue their passions.”
For more than a year, L&I has engaged workers, employers, and unions in developing this proposal. Several public meetings were held to share data, seek input, and review drafts of the possible policy approaches. In June 2019, the Department issued its formal rule proposal. Now, during July and August, L&I is holding these public hearings for anyone to make comments if they are interested. Comments may also be submitted online via this web form, or in writing and mailed to: Employment Standards Program, P.O. Box 44510, Olympia, WA 98504-4510.
If you need more information or details about the proposal to prepare your comments at the hearing, contact David Groves at the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO.