What is Wage & Hour? 
Wage and Hour often refers to the state and federal laws that govern employee rights and employer responsibilities.  These laws frequently arise in the payment of wages, rest periods, overtime pay and record keeping.

What is the minimum wage in Washington?
The minimum wage in Washington is $9.19 per hour for 2013, and $9.32 per hour for 2014. The City of Seattle has approved a $15.00 minimum wage raise over the next 2-7 years depending on the employer size. The city of Seatac has also raised the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour.

What is the Washington Minimum Wage Act (“MWA”)?
Washington’s MWA, RCW Chapter 49.46, establishes the state minimum wage, overtime pay, rest periods and employer’s obligation to keep accurate records.

How is the Federal Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) different than the MWA? 
The FLSA is very similar in many respects to the FLSA and formed the basis upon which the MWA was modeled after.¹ One key difference is that the MWA is restricted to Washington State Employers, while the FLSA is extended to employees engaged in interstate commerce or to employees of enterprises that meet a business volume test.²

What is the difference between an employee versus an independent contractor?
An independent contract is not specifically defined under the MWA or the FLSA, however,courts have dealt with the issue by applying an “economic reality” test.  Some of the factors the 9th circuit have used in Real v. Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc.,  603 F.2d 748, 754-55 (9th Cir. 1979)  are:

  1. The degree of the alleged employer’s right to control the manner in which the work is to be performed;
  2. the alleged employee’s opportunity for profit or loss depending on the his managerial skill;
  3. the alleged employee’s investment in equipment or materials required for his task, or his employment of helpers;
  4. whether the service rendered requires a special skill;
  5. the degree of permanence of the working relationship;
  6. whether the service rendered is an integral part of the alleged employer’s business.

How many rest breaks am I entitled to?
The Industrial Welfare Act (“IWA”) establishes the right to

a) receive paid rest breaks of at least 10 minutes for every four hours of work and
b) to not be required to work more than three hours without a break.³

Am I required to be paid for my lunch break? 
Generally, if an employee is required to remain at his or her desk or be on call, the employee should be paid for this time.

What can I do if I feel I am owed wages? 
If you believe you are owed back wages for rest periods, meal breaks, or other uncompensated time, you should contact an attorney immediately.  In Washington, an employee maintains a private right of action against an employer as well as the ability to complain to the Department of Labor & Industries.

¹See Tift v. Professional Nursing Services, Inc., 76 Wn. App. 577, 583, 866 P.2d 1158 (Div. I. 1995).
²See U.S.C. § 203(r).
³WAC 296-126-092(4)-(5)
⁴RCW 49.46.090(1).