Update state rules to take back our time!
Washington may soon 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 announced a long-awaited rule change to restore overtime pay rights — and the 40-hour workweek — for working families. We need to support that proposal because OUR TIME COUNTS!
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Comment in support of the rule change. Washington residents are encouraged to submit comments on the proposed rule change here. [ADD LINK to WSLC Action Alert page that will target L&I.]
Share your story. Are you someone who would benefit from the rule change? Are you “exempt” from making time-and-a-half overtime pay and/or forced to work long hours without extra pay? Share your story with us! (Link to Working Washington site.)
Attend L&I’s public hearings on the rule. L&I has planned the following public hearings across the state. Mark your calendar to attend and express your support for restoring overtime pay protections:
Spread the word on social media. Share information — including the following images — on social media to help get the word out about this important proposal. Use #RestoreOT.
The state Department of Labor and Industries has announced its long-awaited proposed rule to restore overtime pay rights. L&I has proposed to gradually increase the overtime salary threshold, under which all workers in the state must be paid time-and-a-half for working beyond a 40-hour workweek, to ____ times the state minimum wage by ____. In today’s dollars, that would mean anyone making less than about $__,000 per year, regardless of whether they are classified as hourly or salaried employees, would get time-and-a-half pay beyond 40 hours per week.
OVERTIME HAS BEEN TAKEN AWAY — The current salary threshold, which has not been updated for decades to adjust for inflation, is just $23,660 per year. That’s less than what a full-time minimum wage worker in Washington earns. Anyone who earns more than $23,660 can be declared “exempt” salaried employees and forced to work additional hours beyond 40 per week for free. In the decades that salary threshold has been frozen, the percentage of American workers eligible for overtime pay has gone from more than 60% in the 1970s to less than 7% today.
“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families struggle to pay the bills, they have been working longer and longer hours, sometimes for free because of our outdated overtime pay rules,” said Larry Brown, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO.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.”
RESTORING OVERTIME IS GOOD FOR FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES — 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.”
OUR STATE MUST ACT — The Trump administration has announced plans to dramatically scale back an Obama-era rule to update the federal salary threshold for overtime exemption. The Department of Labor wants to increase it to just $35,000 per year. Millions of Americans — well over half of the workers who would have gotten new or strengthened overtime protections under Obama’s 2016 rule to raise the threshold to $47,500 — will be left behind by Trump’s plan. Had the Obama rule, which provided for automatic inflationary updates of the threshold, remained in place, the threshold would be $51,064 today and $55,000 in 2022.
Gov. Jay Inslee, who directed L&I last year to begin the rule-making process for updating state overtime standards, said it is necessary because “yet again, it is up to the states to step up where the federal government has failed.”
“Washington state is stepping up to protect workers where the federal government has not,” Inslee wrote in a column that appeared in The Stand last fall. “Updating our decades-old overtime rule is one sensible step towards helping more workers share in our economic prosperity.”
I thought only managers and supervisors can be exempt from overtime pay. Aren’t there duties tests that determine whether an employer can deny overtime?
Technically there are rules about what kind of jobs can be exempt, but the employer is the one who tells you whether you get overtime pay or not. If you think they’re wrong, you could file a claim over that classification. But unless you have a lawyer on retainer, in the day-to-day reality of the workplace, your employer gets to decide whether you are eligible for overtime pay.
Isn’t it illegal to force someone to work without pay?
Yes, it is. But if your employer pays you a salary and exempts you from overtime pay — which routinely happens in the food service and retail industries, among others — you can be expected to work as many as 60 hours per week or longer to get the job done. And you won’t get paid a dime for all that extra time after 40 hours.
If your time doesn’t cost anything, it doesn’t get treated with respect.
How will restoring overtime boost productivity?
Opportunities for advancement are restricted when an employer over-relies on a small group of employees because they are exempted from overtime and their time is free. Long hours have also been shown to negatively affect productivity, workplace safety, community involvement, and children’s school performance.
Don’t some jobs simply require long hours?
Yes, some do. But if an employer expects you to work more than 40 hours a week, they should be expected to pay you accordingly. Time is money — employers shouldn’t just get both.
► From Vox — Obama expanded overtime pay to 4 million workers. Now Trump is scaling that back. (March 12, 2019) — A four-year fight to expand overtime pay to millions of workers may soon be over. About 1.2 million workers will win and 2.8 million will lose… AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called the new rule “disgraceful.”
► From The Stand — Trump administration’s federal overtime proposal ‘way too weak’ (March 8, 2019) — The U.S. Department of Labor’s “insufficient” plan raises the urgency for Washington state regulators to restore the 40-hour work week.
► From The Stand — On overtime pay, Washington state must step up (by Gov. Jay Inslee, Nov. 8, 2018) — Yet again, it is up to the states to step up where the federal government has failed. That is why I’ve directed my state Department of Labor and Industries to update Washington’s decades-old rule.
► From the Seattle Times — Washington considers raising 42-year-old standard on who gets overtime pay (Oct. 25, 2018) — Washington’s salary threshold for overtime pay is the same now as it was 42 years ago — $250 a week, or $13,000 a year — although the slightly more generous $455-a-week current federal threshold governs in the state. People who are paid more than that — and anyone working full time at Washington’s $11.50-an-hour minimum wage is earning $460 a week — can be exempted from overtime pay.
► From The Stand — L&I moves to restore workers’ overtime pay protections (Oct. 9, 2018) — After four decades of inaction, L&I releases “pre-draft” towards updated overtime rules that could restore protections to hundreds of thousands of salaried workers.