Seattle’s minimum wage law


The new minimum wage, what you need to know.

Starting from 2017- 2021, employers will be required to pay $15 per hour. The law also includes notice requirements and anti-retaliation protections.


The new minimum wage, what you need to know.

Starting from 2017- 2021, employers will be required to pay $15 per hour. The law also includes notice requirements and anti-retaliation protections.


Summary of the Law

Seattle enacted an ordinance increasing the minimum wage. While the law takes effect in July 2014, the earliest minimum wage change starts April 1, 2015. The law provides escalating rates of pay depending on the size of the employer and whether or not employees get tips or healthcare benefits. Starting from 2017-2021, employers will be required to pay $15 per hour.
The law also includes notice requirements and anti-retaliation protections. The ordinance is poorly drafted, yet it empowers a department to write regulations for later clarity.

Which rate do I pay?

In setting minimum wages, the law distinguishes between employers with 500 or fewer employees, and those with more than 500 employees. Count people, not full time equivalents when determining the employer’s size, including all those traditionally thought of as employees, plus volunteers, outside salespersons, and probably owners who also work in the business. Both large and small employers pay the same rate by the year 2025.

What about franchises or related companies?

Separate companies may be seen as one employer for the purposes of counting employees if they are a franchise or share the following: physical location, interrelated operations, management, financial controls, or ownership. In other words, all of the employees in all of the franchises or related businesses count towards determining whether the organization has 500 or more employees.

Do I count tips and bonuses?

In some cases, employers may pay a lower wage if the employee gets enough tips, commission, or non-discretionary bonuses to make up the difference.

Should I drop medical benefits to pay them more?

In some cases, a lower wage may satisfy the law if the employer also pays the employee’s medical benefits of at least silver level under Obamacare or a similar plan. This difference phases out on January 1, 2019.

What if the business is located out of Seattle?

Employers located outside of Seattle must still pay Seattle’s minimum wage for hours worked “within the geographical boundaries of Seattle,” except for narrow circumstances. If an employee only occasionally works in Seattle, look at whether the employee spends two or more hours working in Seattle over a two-week period, excluding time spent solely driving through
Seattle with no employment-related or commercial stops other than getting gas, eating personal meals, or running personal errands.

Example One: A weekly business lunch in Seattle. The employee is covered because an hour business lunch does not qualify as traveling through Seattle without an employment-related stop when it results in two hours worked over a two-week period. Between traffic and parking, the employee may pass the two-hour in two-week threshold with one meeting in two weeks. The employer should pay the Seattle minimum wage for all hours worked in the city.

Example Two: A Bellevue-based company permits one employee to work on one, four hour project from her Seattle home. All hours worked in Seattle should be paid at Seattle’s minimum wage, regardless of whether the person is part-time, full-time, seasonal, or for a single project.

Do I have to put another poster in the break room?

The law says employers “shall give notice to employees” and may do that by posting it conspicuously at the job site or workplace. The notice “shall” be in English, Spanish, and any other language commonly spoken by employees at that workplace and indicate the following: 1) that they are entitled to the minimum wage/compensation; 2) that retaliation against employees for exercising rights about this law is prohibited; and 3) that employees have the right to file a charge with the city or bring a civil action (i.e. lawsuit) if not paid or if they are retaliated against.

Here is the city’s grid to help you see what you and other employers are expected to pay under the law:

Seattle's minimum wage law

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