OLYMPIA — Washington state businesses need to be aware of a variety of new laws that will affect operations in 2020.

Minimum wage goes to $13.50

The state minimum wage increased on Jan. 1 from $12 an hour to $13.50.

Minimum wage


Family Medical Leave

Employees who have worked 820 hours in Washington state in the last 12 months and have had a qualifying life event can take advantage of a new insurance program called Paid Family Medical Leave.

Workers are eligible for 12-18 weeks of paid leave for events like: the birth or adoption of a child, a serious health issue, a serious health issue of a family member, and certain military events, including the return of a family member.

Not eligible for the program are federal employees, people employed by a business on tribal land, or self-employed people who choose not to opt into the state program.

Workers will receive up to 90 percent of their weekly pay — up to a maximum of $1,000 per week.

Employers are not required to keep jobs open if the company employs fewer than 50 people, the employee has worked for the company for less than a year, or if they’ve worked less than 1,250 hours in the year before the leave.

Overtime rules

For the first time since the 1970s, Washington is overhauling its overtime rules.

The Department of Labor and Industries announced the rule changes on Dec. 11, which will go in effect on July 1, 2020.

The new rules will make an estimated 259,000 additional workers eligible for overtime pay by the time the rules are fully implemented in 2028, with another 235,000 workers having protections strengthened.

Starting on July 1, the minimum salary threshold needed for a company to not pay a worker overtime rates increases from $250 a week to $675 a week, which places the new threshold to 1.5 times Washington’s minimum wage.

The minimum salary threshold will continue to increase yearly until 2028, when it will reach a rate of about $1,603 a week, or $83,356 a year.

In the years after 2028, the threshold will increase to match minimum wage increases caused by inflation.

The new rules also change the criteria for when an employer is exempt from paying an employee overtime. The exemptions will stipulate that workers must have a fixed salary, perform a certain list of duties and make more money than the threshold.

This puts Washington’s rules more in-line with federal regulations.

Gift card expiration dates

Have you ever received a gift certificate for a birthday or other occasion, only to forget about it and have it expire before you use it?

Well, starting July 1, 2020, this will no longer be an issue in Washington.

Businesses in Washington can no longer provide gift certificates that have an expiration date, fee or dormancy charge. This includes gift certificates given as part of a purchase of “personal property or services.”

However, an expiration date can be issued still if it is part of a rewards or loyalty program, or if it is given to a charitable organization without being exchanged for anything.

Salary history ban

As of July 28, 2019, employers in Washington state are prohibited from collecting or seeking the wage or salary history of an applicant for employment. Employers must also disclose the minimum wage or salary for the position upon request from an applicant.

Salary history questions can creep into hiring practices in multiple places, so your company should:

• Be sure to review employment applications, job descriptions, and any other hiring paperwork

• Train all personnel involved in hiring on the new laws to ensure company-wide compliance.

Restrictions on non-compete clauses

As of Jan. 1, 2020, employers will no longer be allowed to put in place or enforce non-compete agreements with employees earning less than $100,000 per year or independent contractors earning less than $250,000 per year. Additionally, any non-compete agreements longer than 18 months in duration after the termination of employment are presumed unreasonable.

Employers should:

• Review standard form agreements and employee handbooks to confirm whether the non-compete provisions are compliant

• Revise non-compliant agreements and employee handbooks to enhance confidentiality and non-solicitation restrictions.

Public discrimination

Affecting every business with premises open to the public as of January 2019 — Washington law clearly imposes direct liability on employers for their employees’ unlawful discrimination against or harassment of customers or other third-parties in places open to the public — even if employers do not know of the discrimination and are not negligent in their supervision of employees. Employers are encouraged to consult their attorney and/or insurance agent to make sure that they have adequate employment practices liability insurance coverage for potential third-party claims and continue to invest in harassment and discrimination prevention.

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