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Wash. to Make Major Adjustment to OT Pay for Salaried Workers

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Salaried workers making 2 to 2.5 times minimum wage would be eligible for overtime pay under a proposed rule in Washington state. (TatianaMara/Twenty20)
Salaried workers making 2 to 2.5 times minimum wage would be eligible for overtime pay under a proposed rule in Washington state. (TatianaMara/Twenty20)
January 28, 2019

SEATTLE – Washington state's overtime laws for salaried workers haven't changed in more than 40 years, but the state Department of Labor and Industries is now in the process of updating them.

Currently, the state follows federal standards, which entitle any employee who makes $23,660 dollars a year or less to collect overtime.

That threshold is about $250 less than the annual pay for a full-time, minimum wage worker in the Evergreen State.

Marilyn Watkins, policy director for the Economic Opportunity Institute, says the overtime rules are a problem for people with low salaries and little flexibility in their schedules.

"And yet are being asked to work really excessive hours, so that they simply aren't able to either support themselves comfortably or have the time to be with their children, deal with family, health and other kinds of community or personal needs," she states.

A recent Gallup poll found nearly a third of U.S. employees work 45 to 59 hours a week.

The Department of Labor and Industries is proposing to raise the income threshold to between $56,000 and $70,000 a year, which is two to two-and-a-half times minimum wage.

Some employers say that's too high and would be a burden for their businesses.

Although it's superseded by the federal rules, the current state threshold for overtime pay – in the books since 1976 – is $13,000 a year.

Watkins says the rising costs of basics such as housing, health care and child care in the state mean more middle income families are living on the brink.

She says updating this income threshold is one tool to help those families.

"They don't have this vision that their children's lives will be better than their own,” she states. “Instead, many people are seeing that their children are not going to be able to afford the kind of life and the kind of opportunity that they themselves were able to have."

Watkins says the new rules could be phased in, like the state's rising minimum wage. She expects the Department of Labor and Industries to issue a final rule in the spring or summer.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA