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New overtime pay ‘duties test’ starts today in Washington

The following is from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I):

TUMWATER (July 1, 2020) — Updates to Washington’s rules that spell out what type of workers don’t have to receive overtime pay take effect today, July 1. The rules establish the criteria for certain workers to be considered exempt from getting overtime pay and other protections under the State Minimum Wage Act. L&I announced the changes last December after a lengthy public process. It involved numerous public hearings and taking comments and input from more than 2,400 people.

The July update is primarily to the part of the rules known as the “job duties test.” In general, it helps determine which workers are considered executive, administrative, and professional employees, as well as computer professionals and outsides salespeople. Workers who fit into these categories based on the duties they perform, and earn more than the required salary threshold, can be considered exempt.

Washington currently uses two job duties tests to determine if an employee could be classified as exempt, but starting July 1 the state will use a single test aligned more closely with federal standards. The test for each exemption spells out what duties an employee must perform to be classified as exempt, regardless of the employee’s job title or job description.

Under the rules changes, the state will base the salary threshold on a multiplier of the state minimum wage. That threshold will increase incrementally until it reaches 2.5 times the minimum wage in 2028.

The change will not impact most salaried workers this year because Washington employers will continue to follow the federal standard for the rest of 2020. That’s because the federal requirement that a salaried worker needs to earn at least $684 per week to be exempt from overtime is still slightly more favorable to employees than the new state threshold. Employers will have to meet the state threshold beginning Jan. 1, 2021, when it exceeds the federal level.

L&I has created a number of tools that explain the rules changes, including an online course that details the updates and leads users through a series of questions and answers to help determine if a worker meets the requirements to be considered exempt. More information is available on our overtime rulemaking web page, and the tools can be found on our Resource Center web page.

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