Washington Salaried Employees Laws

January 31st 2024

Salaried employees are individuals who receive a predetermined fixed amount of compensation at regular intervals, such as weekly or less frequently. The working conditions for such employees are regulated by various laws and regulations.

The objective of this article is to present an overview of the applicable laws and regulations that govern the rights and duties of both salaried employees and their employers in Washington. It will cover several key topics, including payment procedures, break and leave entitlements, as well as the distinction between exempt and non-exempt employees.

This article covers:

Payment of Wages for Salaried Employees in Washington

Employees must receive compensation for all the work they perform, based on the agreed-upon rate with their employer. Irrespective of the method of payment, all employees must receive at least the prevailing state minimum wage rate. Additionally, most non-exempt employees who work over 40 hours per week are generally entitled to receive overtime pay.

If an employer chooses a pay period shorter than a month, they must establish a regular payday within ten calendar days after the end of that pay period, unless specified otherwise by law.

If an employer establishes a weekly pay period from January 1 to January 7, they must pay wages no later than January 17, unless otherwise required by law.

For employers with two semi-monthly pay periods (1st to 15th and 16th to the last day of the month), they must pay wages no later than the 25th day of the current month for the first pay period and no later than the 10th day of the following month for the second pay period, unless otherwise required by law.

Employers with a monthly pay period may adopt a payroll system where wages for work performed during the last seven days of the monthly pay period can be withheld and included in the wages paid on the next payday for the following pay period.

If an employer establishes a monthly pay period from the 1st to the last day of each month, with a payday on the last day of the month, they may pay wages for work done between the 1st and 24th days of the month on the last day of the month. The employer may also pay wages for work performed between the 25th and 31st days of the current month and the 1st and 24th days of the following month on the following month’s payday.

Employers are required to pay all owed wages to employees on established regular paydays, with payment intervals no longer than monthly. If federal law sets more favorable payment interval requirements for employees, those federal regulations will be applicable. Maintaining records of payroll periods and authorized overtime hours, or even time and attendance tracking and time off tracking (when applicable based on company policies) can be important. While it’s not mandatory, these records provide valuable information for salaried employees regarding compensation.

Salaried Employees Eligibility for Overtime in Washington

Salaried employees falling under the executive, administrative, or professional categories, commonly known as “white-collar” jobs, are generally exempt from overtime pay.

Nonetheless, some salaried employees in Washington can be eligible for overtime compensation.

Eligibility for overtime pay and setting up overtime rates is not solely determined by the salary. The key factors that influence eligibility are the employee’s job duties, responsibilities, and the industry they work in.

Pay for Working Overtime for Washington Salaried Employees

Tracking work hours can be helpful for ensuring the accuracy of calculations when determining the overtime rate for salaried employees. For any hours worked beyond 40 hours in a week, overtime pay must be provided to employees, and it must be at least 1.5 times their regular hourly rate. 

The regular hourly rate cannot be lower than the state’s minimum wage. Calculating overtime involves two steps: 

  • First, determine the employee’s regular hourly rate, 
  • Then, multiply it by 1.5 for each hour worked beyond 40 hours.

To determine their regular rate, salaried employees need to divide their salary by the number of hours it is meant to cover.

Exceptions to Overtime Exemptions for Washington Salaried Employees

Federal law and the laws in most US states mandate the exemption of certain employees and professions from receiving overtime pay.

These exemptions include highly compensated employees earning over $107,432 annually, executive, professional, and administrative employees earning at least $684 per week, computer professionals, and outside salespeople.

Washington State adheres to similar rules, and it also excludes minors and certain employees who do not meet the definition of “an employee” as specified in the Minimum Wage Act from receiving overtime pay.

Learn more in detail about Washington Overtime Laws.

Violation of Salaried Employees Wages Payment in Washington

If an employer fails to pay the legal minimum wage and commits other violations, they may be subject to paying back wages and facing civil or criminal action if appropriate.

If the Department of Labor finds that an employer has violated a wage payment requirement and issues a citation and notice of assessment, the employer may be ordered to pay all wages owed to the employees, along with one percent per month interest on the owed wages. The calculation of wages and interest starts from the date the wages were initially owed, except for wages and interest owed more than three years before the wage complaint was filed.

If the department determines that the wage payment violation was willful, the employer may also be required to pay a civil penalty. The civil penalty for a willful violation will be either one thousand dollars or ten percent of the total amount of unpaid wages, whichever is greater. The maximum civil penalty for a willful violation will not exceed twenty thousand dollars.

Male and Female Salaried Employees in Washington

The Equal Pay and Opportunities Act prevents gender pay discrimination and promote fairness in the workplace in Washington. It addresses business practices that lead to income disparities between genders, and it protects the rights of both employees and job applicants.

Pay and career advancement opportunities cannot be based on gender, and employees have the right to discuss their wages and access certain salary information. Employees with similar jobs should receive equal pay based on skill, effort, and responsibility, not job titles, with only specific justifiable factors allowed for pay differences.

Acceptable reasons for differences in pay include education, training, experience, seniority, and merit, among others, while previous wage history cannot be used to justify gender pay differences. Similarly, employers cannot limit career advancement opportunities based on gender, with acceptable reasons for differences in advancement opportunities also including education, training, experience, seniority, and merit.

Leave Entitlements for Salaried Employees in Washington

In Washington State, salaried employees have access to several types of leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides relief for bonding with a newborn or adopted child, caring for family members, and medical emergencies. Sick leave allows employees to earn paid time off for personal or family health issues. Keeping records, timesheets, and hour reports can prove beneficial in situations such as unexpected absences, vacations, holidays, and sick days.

Domestic violence and sexual assault leave are available, allowing employees to take time off for legal and medical assistance. Additionally, employees are entitled to 3 days of paid bereavement leave for funeral arrangements and grieving periods. Jury duty leave is provided, and employers cannot penalize employees for serving on a jury. Military leave is granted under both federal and state laws, with state employees receiving paid military leave.

Break Entitlements for Salaried Employees in Washington

According to the rules set by the Washington Labor and Industries Department, all employees in the state are entitled to a paid break lasting at least 10 minutes after completing a 4-hour work shift. To meet legal requirements, employers must provide a total break time of 20 minutes for a standard 8-hour shift, ideally scheduled in the middle of the work period. Rest breaks may vary depending on the nature of the job, but any rest time taken by employees is considered as time worked.

Regarding meal breaks in Washington, employers are obliged to give employees a minimum of 30 minutes for meals if they work more than 5 hours in a shift. This meal break should occur between the 2nd and 5th hour of the shift. Typically, meal breaks are unpaid unless the job requires employees to work through the meal break or experience interruptions during it due to job demands. Different break regulations may apply to agricultural workers and minors.

Deductions from Exempt Employees’ Salary in Washington

Deductions from salaried employees’ pay are subject to specific limitations, but certain situations do allow for deductions. For example, deductions are permissible when the employee performs no work in a specific week, takes a whole day off for personal reasons, or has absences due to sickness or disability covered by a bona fide plan. Prorated pay is allowed during the first and final week of employment, and deductions can be made for disciplinary absences related to significant safety rules. Moreover, deductions are authorized under certain laws and regulations and may be permitted for partial-day absences that are under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and applicable provisions.

On the other hand, improper deductions include those for partial days of work, less than a full week of work due to lack of work, absences related to jury duty, witness attendance, or temporary military leave when the employee works during that week, and absences due to sickness or disability without a bona fide plan.

Termination of Employment for Salaried Employees in Washington

In Washington, employers have the authority to terminate employment contracts without providing a specific reason, and employees have the right to resign without facing legal consequences. Nevertheless, certain protected rights prevent termination from being considered legal. For instance, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who exercise safety complaints, claim workers’ compensation, take protected leave, or report violations of various acts such as the Minimum Wage Act, Injured Worker’s Claim, Protected Leave, and Equal Pay and Opportunities Act. If an employee is protected by any of these circumstances, the employer cannot take actions like termination, suspension, demotion, denial of promotion, reduction of hours, alteration of the schedule, reduction of pay rate, or imposition of disciplinary measures. Moreover, employers cannot threaten employees based on their or their family members’ immigration status.

When an employee is lawfully terminated, the employer must promptly pay all owed wages on the first regular payday. If the employee is unable to collect the wages in person, they can request that the wages be sent by mail, and the employer must agree to this request. However, the state law does not specify how wages should be paid to employees terminated due to legal proceedings or strike actions, in which case company policies will apply.

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.