OLYMPIA (March 22, 2021) — The Worker Protection Act (HB 1076), which creates another avenue for workers to seek justice when if employer violates existing wage, work safety and discrimination laws, advanced from the Senate Labor, Commerce and Tribal Affairs Committee last week. The House-approved legislation, which is strongly supported by Washington’s labor movement, now goes before the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
Withheld wages, dangerous workplaces, and racial and gender discrimination—although illegal under current state law—are real problems that are hurting workers in Washington state, particularly Black and Indigenous folks and people of color (BIPOC). When these violations are not prosecuted, it harms not just the workers but also law-abiding employers who are undercut by unscrupulous competition. But state agencies don’t always have the capacity to investigate these violations.
HB 1076 would allow workers to blow the whistle in court if their employers violate wage, work safety and discrimination laws, but state agencies are unable or have declined to investigate the complaint. If the court finds that an employer has violated the law, any penalties paid would be divided between the affected worker(s) and the state.
TAKE A STAND — Even if you have already sent a prior message of support, please send a message to your state senator urging them to pass HB 1076, the Worker Protection Act!
At last week’s public hearing in the Senate Labor, Commerce and Tribal Affairs Committee, senators heard from multiple workers and other worker advocates about the importance of passing HB 1076, particularly for BIPOC workers and others who face discrimination at work:
● “HB 1076 is needed to reduce the health impacts of racism at work,” said Juniper Moon of the African American Health Board. “I urge you to pass HB 1076 to protect Black workers, Black families and Black lives.”
● “Passing the Worker Protection Act is about affirming our workplace protections and providing a pathway to justice,” said Kalkidan Mulatu, SEIU 6 member and immigrant worker from Ethiopia.
● “Every worker should have access to basic protections,” said restaurant worker Clare Thomas. “The Worker Protection Act would allow workers to hold their employers accountable for violations without fear of reprisal.”
● “The Marshallese community needs the Legislature to pass HB 1076 this year to protect us from employer retaliation,” said Jiji Jally of the Marshallese Women’s Association.
● “The Worker Protection Act would give the LGBTQ community another avenue to enforce the anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation laws that already exist,” said Shellea Allen of Pride at Work. “People can’t afford to wait for the Human Rights Commission to take on their case (given its current backlog of several months).”
● “Individual legal claims are too expensive to pursue, whether in arbitration or in court. The tools at our disposal (to enforce existing laws) are simply not enough to ensure that workers are protected,” said Lindsey Halm, Partner at Schroeter Goldmark & Bender. “Please support HB 1076.”