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Washington ranks as one of the best states to work in the nation with an above-average median salary and no income tax. Employers and workers are less likely to take their employment problems to court in the Evergreen State than in most other states.
Still, workers are still susceptible to employers taking advantage of them. If you feel powerless against an employer who is cutting your hours or pay, putting you at a disadvantage because of your race or gender or refusing to allow a sick leave request, know that you're not powerless. Washington's employment laws empower you against illegal business practices.
Employment law covers a multitude of topics, including worker's compensation, workplace discrimination, vacation and overtime, unemployment benefits and more. Your employment dispute is often affected by federal, state and local laws simultaneously. Washington employment law attorneys are experienced with the delicacy and complexity of work-related cases and can help protect your rights.
Wrongful termination and whistleblower retaliation are among the most common Washington employment law issues. In both cases, a worker is illegally fired or let go from their job. Whistleblowers—workers who report, testify against or refuses to participate in an employer's illegal business practice—may also face workplace harassment, demotion or other hour and wage violations.
While Washington is an at-will employment state, meaning that an employer may terminate a worker for any reason or no reason at any time, employers are restricted from wrongfully terminating employees on illegal grounds. In Washington, illegal grounds for termination include:
Washington's Employee Whistleblower Protection laws, however, do not protect all employees from employer retaliation. Only public employees such as state or government workers are protected and encouraged by the laws to report unlawful government actions like taking bribes to the Whistleblower Program.
Washington's minimum wage is $11/hour as of January 2017. In 2016, Initiative 1433 was passed into law and will annually increase the minimum wage by $0.50 until 2020, when it will be $13.50/hour. In 2021, the minimum wage will then increase annually according to the rate of inflation calculated by the Washington Department of Labor and Industries.
Not all workers are legally entitled to receive sick leave. Employers may offer sick leave as a benefit under an employment policy, contract or agreement. They are not required by Washington law to provide sick leave except for when employers offer sick leave.
Under the FMLA, workers are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid sick leave for a serious illness. To qualify, a worker must have worked for an employer with 50 or more employees for at least 1,250 hours within 12 months. The worker may use the sick leave to care for their own or a family member's serious illness.
In 2016, Initiative 1433 established new rules for sick leave. On January 1, 2018, all employers must provide paid sick leave to qualified workers. Upon the 90th day of your employment, you'll start accruing one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. If by the end of the year you have accrued 40 hours or less of sick leave, that time will be carried over into the new year.
If you or a loved one is involved in an employment law dispute, it's in your best interests to consult with an attorney. Employment law is a broad, complicated legal area with federal and state laws at play. An experienced Washington employment law attorney can help protect your legal rights.
Have you been discriminated against by a potential or current employer -- as a job applicant or current employee? To best protect your legal rights you should discuss your situation with an employment lawyer. Meet with a local employment attorney sooner rather than later to protect your rights.