Washington Overtime Laws

January 23rd 2024

According to Washington labor laws, an employee is entitled to overtime pay if they work above 40 hours in a week, or above 8 hours a day.

Washington abides by both federal and state law. However, if both laws differ, employers must follow the law that is most favorable to the employee.

This article will provide information to successfully navigate Washington’s overtime regulations, whether you’re an employer aiming for compliance or an employee defending your rights.

This article covers:

Washington Overtime Rates

Overtime in Washington is set at 1.5 times the regular hourly rate for workers who exceed 40 hours a week. 

Since the regular Washington minimum wage is $16.28 per hour, that makes Washington’s overtime minimum wage $24.42 per hour (1.5 times the regular minimum wage).

Overtime Entitlement in Washington

Employees who earn below $1,302.4 a week ($67,724.80 annually) and work in a non-exempt industry are entitled to overtime pay.

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) also automatically qualifies some workers to receive overtime pay. For example, if an employee’s work involves manual labor (such as construction work, factory work, cashier, etc), then you are most probably entitled to overtime pay.

Read more about Overtime Exceptions and Exemptions in Washington.

Refusing to Work Overtime in Washington

Employees in Washington cannot refuse to work overtime if their employers request them to work.

An employer has the right to invoke disciplinary action if employees refuse to work overtime. That being said, employees must be compensated accordingly for the extra hours they work (if they are eligible for overtime).

The only exception to this overtime rule is for healthcare facility employees. Such employees cannot be subjected to excessive work hours unless they have voluntarily agreed to.

“Compensatory Time” in Washington

In Washington, only public employees can receive compensatory time, “comp time”, instead of regular overtime pay. 

Comp time is when an employee is given time off for working overtime hours instead of receiving overtime pay.

The rate for comp time is the same as overtime pay, which is 1.5 hours for every overtime hour worked. This is only applicable if approved by an employer or stated in an employee’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

An employer cannot force an employee to accept comp time instead of overtime pay.

According to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the maximum amount of comp time that an employee can accumulate is limited to 240 hours. For public safety or emergency response duties, an employee can accumulate up to 480 hours.

Overtime for Salaried Employees in Washington 

Salaried employees who fit the executive, administrative, or professional category, often referred to as “white-collar” jobs, are not eligible for overtime.

However, some salaried employees in Washington are eligible for overtime pay.

A salary doesn’t determine one’s eligibility. The job duties, responsibilities, and industry sector play a more crucial role in determining whether an employee is entitled to overtime pay or not.

Read more about Overtime Exceptions and Exemptions in Washington.

Overtime Exceptions and Exemptions in Washington 

Under federal law, most US states are required to exempt certain employees and specific professions from receiving overtime pay. These include:

  • Highly compensated employees making over $107,432 per year
  • Executive, professional, and administrative employees earning at least $1302.4 per week
  • Computer professionals
  • Outside salespeople

Washington State follows a similar set of rules, while also excluding minors and certain employees who don’t meet the definition of “an employee” as outlined in the Minimum Wage Act.  

The following employees can be paid overtime but must be paid under certain circumstances:

  • Retail/service establishment employees who receive a commission (if more than half of their weekly wage is commissions)
  • Commission salespeople selling cars, trucks, farm equipment, recreational vehicles, trailers, and manufactured housing (if they get at least 1.5 times the minimum wage for all their hours worked)
  • Firefighters and police officers (only when working certain hours)
  • Truck and bus drivers (if their company receives approval from the Washington Department of Labor & Industries)

Special Overtime Rules For Truck And Bus Drivers in Washington

Truck and bus drivers in Washington are required to abide by the Federal Motor Carrier Act and are paid according to a special schedule. Their pay will include overtime that must be reasonably equivalent to the Washington overtime law (a 1.5 rate for hours worked over 40 hours per week).

An employer must provide a pay rate that is not on an hourly basis but also includes overtime compensation. For example, if a truck driver is paid on a mileage basis, then their overtime would be calculated based on the miles they drove within a certain number of hours.

The Washington state legislature provides more in-depth information regarding this. 

Statute of Limitations For Unpaid Overtime Claims in Washington

In Washington, the statute of limitations for unpaid overtime claims is 3 years.

This means that employees have 3 years to file a claim to recover their back wages if their employer has violated their overtime (or other wage and hour-related) rights.

Penalties for Not Providing Overtime Pay to Employees in Washington

Employers who violate Washington’s overtime laws may be subjected to penalties of up to $1,000 for each such violation. 

It is advisable to consult with an attorney regarding overtime violations as penalties may vary based on the severity of the case.

Legal Cases Relating to Overtime Compensation in Washington

Below, we present law cases relating to fair overtime compensation for employees in Washington: 

1. Employer Agrees to $254K Settlement After Unpaid Overtime Violation

In the case of Richards v. Schoen Trust Company, Rianna Richards and Jane Wangari were caregivers for Gene Henseler. The two caregivers claimed that Schoen Trust Company, the successor of Mr. Henseler’s estate and trustee of Heneseler Living Trust, had failed to pay them both the minimum wage and overtime compensation.

When this case was initially filed in 2022, Schoen Trust Company had pushed for a summary judgment (judgment against one party without a full trial). This was dismissed and after some time engaging in discovery (obtaining proof), both parties reached a settlement agreement in 2023.

The settlement stated that Schoen Trust will have to pay the caregivers a total of $254,000 if the caregivers revoke their claims related to Mr. Henseler. Caregivers Richards and Wangari received $168,000 and $86,000 respectively.

The court approved this settlement and the case was dismissed.

Key lessons from this case:

  • Settlement agreements are an excellent way to solve disputes but they should be reviewed by all the parties involved.
  • Caregivers are also entitled to overtime compensation as any other non-exempt employee would be.
  • This case highlights the importance of correctly classifying employees to ensure compliance with laws.
2. Former Seattle SuperSonics Ticket Agents Seek Overtime Pay After Termination

In the case of Lambert v. Ackerley, six former ticket sales agents (also known as “account executives”) of Seattle SuperSonics (Sonic), a National Basketball Association team, filed a lawsuit stating that they were not properly compensated for their overtime work. Instead of being paid overtime for the number of hours worked, the account executives were given a fixed amount of “overtime pay” every month.

Laura Lambert, one of the six who filed the lawsuit, raised her concerns with Sonic’s management about unpaid overtime. She also hired an attorney and it was confirmed that Sonic had violated the Fair Labor Standards Act. A settlement was agreed and Lambert and the other agents were paid their owed overtime wages.

However, less than a week later, Sonic’s Executive Vice President indicated plans to lay off all the account executives. 9 out of 10 of the account executives working at Sonic were terminated, including the six who filed this lawsuit.

The six account executives alleged that they were fired in retaliation for their complaints. After a trial was held, the jury ruled in favor of the account executives. They were awarded $697,000 for the lost wages and $75,000 each for emotional distress.

However, Sonic argued that the amount of $75,000 for each account executive was excessive. The court agreed and remanded the case to determine the most reasonable amount. The final ruling is undetermined. 

Key lessons from this case:

  • Washington law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who assert their rights regarding overtime pay or other wage-related issues.
  • Emotional distress damages are available to employees who suffered mental anguish as a result of retaliation for fighting for their overtime rights.
  • Overtime pay should be calculated based on the number of hours worked, rather than a fixed monthly amount.
3. Flight Attendant Seeks Compensation for Unpaid Overtime Hours

In the case of Krueger v. Alaska Airlines, a flight attendant, Crystal Krueger, filed a lawsuit (on behalf of herself and others alike) alleging that Alaska Airlines violated Washington’s wage and hour laws by not providing pay for every hour that was worked. In the lawsuit, Krueger claimed that Alaska Airlines failed to provide compensation for overtime hours, along with rest breaks and work performed outside of the standard working hours.

Alaska Airlines moved the case to the federal court by arguing that this case met the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). Alaska Airlines argued that this case met CAFA due to the amount of damages that could be awarded which was at least $5 million (based on their estimate calculation). 

Krueger filed a motion to remand the case (reinstate it back to state court). The district judge determined that Alaska Airlines had every right to move the case to federal court as it met the CAFA minimum amount of potential damages. The judge also found that Krueger did not provide enough evidence that this case was more suited for state court.

The court denied Krueger’s motion to remand, which means that this case will continue in the federal court. A final ruling is pending as the case is still ongoing.

Key lessons from this case:

  • This case shows the burden for employers to provide enough evidence that the case exceeds Washington state’s jurisdiction (power to make legal decisions) to ensure that they get a fair trial in federal court.
  • CAFA can impact a case by providing jurisdiction to the appropriate court.
  • This case emphasizes the burden of proof needed from both parties when in dispute.

Learn more about Washington Labor Laws through our detailed guide.

Important Cautionary Note

When making this guide we have tried to make it accurate but we do not give any guarantee that the information provided is correct or up-to-date. We therefore strongly advise you seek advice from qualified professionals before acting on any information provided in this guide. We do not accept any liability for any damages or risks incurred for use of this guide.