For a worker filing a wage-theft complaint
Most agricultural and non-agricultural workers must be paid the state’s minimum wage. Tips and service charges do not count toward a worker’s hourly minimum wage. The 2023 minimum wage in the state of Washington is $15.74 per hour. Next year that rises to $16.28 per hour. Workers under 16 may be paid 85% of the minimum wage. Some cities, such as Seattle and SeaTac, also have their own local minimum wage mandates.
Employees working over 40 hours in a week must receive overtime, which is at least 1.5 times their hourly rate. Workers are not allowed to waive their right to overtime pay. This applies to most hourly workers, and some salaried employees.
The state legislature extended overtime pay to agriculture workers in 2021. In 2023, these workers had to be compensated for any hours worked over 48 in a week. In 2024, this is set to drop to 40.
Being paid below minimum wage or not receiving breaks, paid sick leave or overtime pay all qualify as wage theft. Workers can file wage-theft complaints three ways: using an online complaint form, downloading and mailing a worker rights complaint form or visiting an L&I office.
The agency requests that workers include supporting documents with their complaints, which can include time cards, shift schedules, pay stubs, workplace policies or any written wage agreements. Investigations typically take up to 60 days to complete, according to L&I.
Collect all the documentation you can to demonstrate the failure to pay the wages you are owed, suggests Miller with Working Washington.
“If your employer doesn’t keep records – a common occurrence – you should make your own records of start and stop times, missed breaks, tips you didn’t receive, etc.,” he said. “This will really help you as you work to get paid properly.”
Often it is very clear if a worker isn’t receiving sick leave or overtime, Grad said.
“Documents don’t have to be something super-duper fancy and official; pull out your phone or pull out a notepad and start making a note on this day, ‘I was called back from my break and forced to work, I only got five minutes of a break,’ or ‘I didn't get a lunch break this day,’” she added. “This will be very helpful when it comes to filing a complaint.”
Working Washington, Fair Work Center and the Northwest Justice Project are also available to assist with wage issues.
Find employers that L&I has found to have violated wage-theft laws with this search tool. You can search by company name, city or ZIP code.
Seattle has its own rules regarding labor standards, which include paid sick leave for gig workers. The city also conducts its own wage-theft investigations. Complaints can be filed through a web form; by calling (206) 256-5297 (interpreters can be provided); or by visiting the Office of Labor Standards.
The city indicates that it prioritizes investigating complaints from workers making less than 350% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, which is $51,030 for 2023, and those that impact a larger number of employees.