Washington State Proposes Raising Minimum Salary for Overtime-Exempt Workers

Author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor

UPDATE - June 6, 2019: The proposed regulations have been published. Further details can be found in XpertHR's Employment Law Manual.

June 5, 2019

Starting next summer, the minimum annual salary for most overtime-exempt employees in Washington state will likely more than double for many employers.

Under draft regulations proposed today by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), the minimum salary for executive, administrative, professional and outside sales employees would increase from the current level of $23,660 (set under federal rules) to $49,140 for large employers (with 51 or more employees) and to $35,100 for small employers (with 50 or fewer employees), effective July 1, 2020. The $35,100 level for small employers would be slightly less than the $35,308 level proposed by the US Department of Labor earlier this year and far less than the $74,880 level that L&I was considering last year.

The text of the draft regulations was not available as of the time of publication. But according to a summary of the proposed changes, the minimum pay a salaried worker must receive to be considered exempt would increase incrementally to 2.5 times the state minimum wage by 2026. Small employers would have more time to make the first increase.

In addition to raising the minimum salary level, the proposed regulations would change the duties tests used in Washington to determine if an employee is performing exempt work. Currently, there are simplified duties tests for employees who are compensated at a higher level. Under the proposed regulations, there would be only one set of duties tests, and they would more closely align with the federal duties tests.

"Americans are working harder and longer than ever before and overtime protections ensure that workers are fairly compensated. That's why I asked the [L&I] to update Washington state's overtime rules," Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement.

Employers are invited to comment on the proposed rules no later than 5 pm, September 6, 2019, by:

  • Attending a public hearing;
  • Emailing;
  • Faxing to 360-902-5300; or
  • Mailing the Employment Standards Program, PO Box 44510, Olympia, WA 98504-4510.

The rulemaking process could take up to six months. L&I expects to formally adopt the rule in late 2019.