Washington State Labor Laws

Washington State labor laws require employers to provide employees a paid rest break. It is important for all employees to know and recognize these laws. Getting to know these rules and regulations can be very beneficial in the long run.

Minimum Wage

The minimum wage law in the State of Washington is currently $11.00. Businesses must pay this amount regardless of what type of business is being operated. Further, if the employee is a tipped worker or works on commission, other rules apply.


Washington employment laws require a business to pay extra compensation to employees at a rate of 1½ times the worker's standard rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a week's worth of work.

Meals and Breaks

Washington work laws require businesses to give employees a paid rest break. No less than 10 minutes for every four hours worked. This is in addition to the typical lunch period, in which an employee is allowed at least 30 minutes for every five hours worked. Employers can choose to provide additional time if they see fit. Therefore, for example, an employee may be given an hour lunch period as well as additional 10 minute rest periods for a typical eight hour working day.


"Hours worked" alludes to all hours in which the employee is approved by the business to work. Therefore, if an employee is scheduled to work from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., that schedule must be adhered to. Further, the meals and breaks must be provided to the employee as required by the state.  

Vacation Leave

It is up to the employer to provide vacation time, either paid or unpaid. There are no such rules governed by the State of Washington that require an employer to provide vacation days. However, holiday leave has different rules that apply.

A business generally offers some sort of vacation pay, as most employees would not want to work for a company that provides no PTO time at all. But you’ll want to enter the employer-employee relationship knowing how much vacation time you will be receiving.  

Sick Leave

Washington law does not require that businesses provide sick leave benefits. However, on Jan. 1, 2018, all businesses will be required to give paid leave to employees who work in Washington.

Holiday Leave

Washington law does not require private businesses to pay for holiday time off. With that being said, most employers do in fact pay for such holidays. Further, a private business is not forced into paying employees time and a half for working on holidays, as the ordinary hourly rate is acceptable.  

Jury Duty Leave

A business is not required to pay an employee for time spent on jury duty leave. But most employers do in fact cover this.

Voting Leave

Washington law requires a business to offer up to two hours of time for employees to vote in any given election. Therefore, all employees should be given two hours (at the most) for visiting their local voting polls to vote.

Bereavement Leave

Washington law does not require businesses to offer bereavement leave. However, most employers do in fact offer some kind of bereavement leave depending on the relationship of the deceased to the employee. For example, a lot of businesses offer a week or two of off-time for the loss of an immediate family member whereas the loss of a cousin or friend may only allow for two bereavement days.

Severance Pay

Washington work laws don't expect businesses to furnish employees with severance pay. If a business gives severance benefits, it must consent to the terms of the employment contract.

All of these are important considerations when considering a new employer, or alternatively, an important consideration for all Washington employers to keep in mind when operating their businesses. While the laws don’t require that employers abide by most of these items, i.e., vacation leave, sick pay, etc., almost all employers do in fact offer some kind of:

  • Vacation pay
  • Sick time off
  • Bereavement leave
  • Severance pay

It is important that, if you are a potential new employee, you are aware of all of the benefits and drawbacks of being employed with that specific company. If you are an employer, you must ensure that you abide by the state laws in terms of labor and employment.

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