Washington Labor Laws

Washington or the state of Washington, as it is often called to avoid confusion with Washington D.C., is in the Northwest region of the United States. Over 60% of the state’s population lives in Seattle. Labor laws are governed by the Department of Labor and Industries.

Washington Labor Law Breaks

If you work 5 hours straight, you are entitled to a 30-minute meal break, which must occur no later than 2 hours after the start of your shift. Employees who stay at least 3 hours past the time their shift should end will receive an additional 30 minutes. If the employee has no obligations at all, they are not compensated. Rest periods of no less than ten minutes for every four hours of work. Employees aged 14 and 15 are required to take a 30-minute break for lunch before beginning a 4-hour shift. Employees 16 and 17 years of age must take a 30-minute meal break no later than 2 hours but no later than 5 hours from the start of their shift.

Maternity leave

A parent can take up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to care for a new child. This includes newborns and adopted children. In order to qualify for this time off, an employee must have worked for a company with over 50 employees for 12 months and 1250 hours. If the business has fewer than 8 employees or is a religious non-profit organization then a person taking maternity leave is not guaranteed their position will be there when they return.

For companies that have more than 8, but less than 50 employees and are not religious non-profit organizations, the amount of time off will be determined by a doctor’s recommendation. If your employer has over 50-people on staff and they are not offering to hold your position for 12 weeks then they are in violation of state and federal laws and should be reported to your local chapter of the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.

The state of Washington does not require an employer to pay for time off during maternity leave. Before accepting a position you should inquire into any leave offered for new parents and whether or not this leave is paid.


Overtime can be made mandatory by an employer, even if the employee does not agree to it. Most workers who work over 40 hours in a 7-day week must be paid at one and a half times their regular rate. Overtime pay cannot be waived by the employee or employer; however, an exchange can be made for one and a half hours to be taken off at a later date for every hour of overtime worked.

Some industries are exempt from overtime laws, for a complete listing of these occupations contacts your local department of labor and industries. One of the occupations included in the total overtime exemption is nurses, who are not required to work overtime in the interest of protecting patients’ safety.

Required age for employment

A person who is 14 years of age may work in the state of Washington in positions that are not hazardous to them. A person under the age of 14 may work in certain situations but only after getting permission from the county superior court. All minors working in the state of Washington must adhere to modified work hours and break schedules.

Employers must get a minor’s work permit endorsement for each site they intend to have a minor working at. The application for these permits can be obtained through the department of licensing, or labor and industries.

Prevailing Wage

The state of Washington has what is called a prevailing wage for all public works employees. A prevailing wage is a special calculated wage that is defined by the average wage, benefits, and overtime paid to the majority of workers in the largest city in each county.

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