Washington State Voters Pass A Higher Minimum Wage Rate & Paid Sick Leave Benefits

Last week, voters in the state of Washington approved a substantial increase in the minimum wage rate beginning next year. Minimum wage workers currently make $9.47 per hour. With the passage of Initiative 1433, their wages will increase to $11.00 per hour starting on January 1, 2017. The Initiative also requires employers to provide employees with up to five paid sick leave days per year.

Minimum Wage

Ordinarily, Washington’s minimum wage rate is adjusted each year for inflation. Based on that formula, the Department of Labor & Industries announced earlier this year that the minimum wage would increase to $9.55 per hour in January, just 8 cents more per hour than the current rate. The voter-approved minimum wage rate under I-1433 means that workers will instead be making $1.53 per hour more than the current rate, and significantly more than anticipated for several years thereafter. The initiative schedules minimum wage rate increases over the next four years as follows:

Estimated Hourly Rate Under Current Law Hourly Rate Under I-1433 Difference
January 1, 2017 $9.55 $11.00 $1.45
January 1, 2018 $9.77 $11.50 $1.73
January 1, 2019 $10.02 $12.00 $1.98
January 1, 2020 $10.28 $13.50 $3.22
January 1, 2021 $10.56 Adjusted for inflation

Under the new law, tips, gratuities, and service charges belong to the employee and are not counted toward the employee’s hourly minimum wage.

Paid Sick Leave

Initiative 1433 also permits employees to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. Employees can accrue up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year. Sick leave may be used for the following reasons:

  1. The employee’s own illness, injury or health condition diagnosis or preventive medical care;
  2. To care for a family member with an illness, injury or health condition, diagnosis or preventive medical care;
  3. The place of business or an employee’s child’s school or day care has been closed by a public official for a health-related reason; or
  4. For reasons related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

Family members include: a spouse or registered domestic partner; a child; a parent, step-parent, or legal guardian; a grandparent; a grandchild; and a brother or sister.

The Local Edge

Workers in Seattle and Tacoma, WA will still fare better than workers statewide come January 1, 2017.  Minimum wage workers of large employers who work in Seattle will make $15.00 per hour ($13.50 with benefits) beginning January 1, 2017. Employees of small employers who work in Seattle will earn $13.00 per hour ($11.00 with benefits). Employees working in Tacoma will earn $11.15 per hour starting January 1, 2017. Still, all Washington minimum wage workers will be among the highest paid nationwide.

The statewide paid sick leave mandate will benefit workers in Tacoma, which only provides for 24 hours of paid leave annually. However, Seattle workers will still be better protected by the local paid sick leave law, which provides between 40 hours and 72 hours of paid sick leave annually, depending on employer size.

Notice & Posting

The state initiative requires notification to employees of their paid sick leave rights, so employers may be required to post a new notice starting next year. We want to make sure you hear about it here first. Stay tuned.



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