Washington to Have Strongest Overtime Protections in the Nation

After 40 Years, the Middle Class Will Finally Get Its Time Back

SEATTLE – Today, Washington state’s Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) finalized a rule change to restore overtime protections for salaried workers who haven’t had the value of their time respected for more than 40 years.

The rule finalization is the last step of a multiple-years-long process led by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, state and local lawmakers, and stakeholders. Under the new rule – which is phased in over seven years at different rates for large and small employers – salaried workers earning less than about $83,000 a year in 2028 will be guaranteed time-and-a-half pay for every hour they work over 40 in one week.

About 419,000 salaried employees in Washington who are currently putting in free overtime will gain new or strengthened protections under the rule.

After releasing a draft rule in the spring, L&I held seven public forums across the state and received 2,266 online comments — 91 percent of which were either in support of the rule or advocated for an even stronger rule. What little opposition there was came from the same business groups who opposed raising the minimum wage and passing paid sick leave, their lobbyists, and some vocal business owners who currently benefit from unpaid labor and want to maintain the status quo.

“In the coming weeks, we can expect to hear the usual fear-mongering from rapacious employers who don’t want to pay their employees for their time,” said Nick Hanauer, who was the first to call for restoring overtime at the federal level in 2014. “What those trickle-downers won’t acknowledge is that this restored threshold is well within historic norms — in fact, it’s even lower than the federal overtime threshold that was in place when the American middle class was at its strongest.”

When overtime protections were at their strongest in the 1970s, more than 60 percent of national salaried workers qualified for overtime. Today that number is as low as 7 percent. This rule change will restore protections for about 45 percent of salaried workers in Washington – falling short of historic standards, but still a strong step.

Unfortunately L&I did extend the phase-in from its initial proposal, moving the final year of implementation from 2026 to 2028 – a change that unnecessarily delays an already more than adequate phase-in period. For over 40 years, salaried employees have been expected to work extra hours for free if asked, missing out on time with their families, kids, friends, and communities. If employers who have benefitted from this parasitic working relationship can’t learn in six years how to function under an 80-year labor standard, then they need a new business model.

“Washington is setting a new benchmark for states restoring overtime protections for salaried workers who have fallen behind over the last 40 years,” said state Sen. Karen Keiser (D-33). “While I’m disappointed the Department chose to prolong the wait yet another two years for some Washington workers, Washington is once again leading the nation in doing what’s best for workers, families, and for our economy.”

Under Gov. Inslee’s leadership, Washington is leading the way on overtime with the strongest protections in the country. This is especially important after the Trump administration halted an Obama proposal to restore federal overtime protections, then released an even lower threshold in September that leaves behind an estimated 8.2 million workers who would have received restored protections under the Obama proposal.

“I am grateful to Governor Inslee for his leadership in restoring and expanding overtime protections to cover nearly half of our state’s salaried workforce. And I am proud to represent a district and state that have long fought for dignity and fair compensation for workers,” said Washington Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07). “Given the absence of leadership by the Trump administration, leaving millions of workers behind, it’s more critical than ever that states like Washington continue to lead the way.”



CONTACT: Jack Sorensen, jack@civic-ventures.com