Wage and Hour Laws in Washington | Current Washington Labor Laws

Minimum Wage

Washington’s current minimum wage is $14.49.

Washington state law dictates an annual minimum wage review must be completed by September 30th each year. The minimum wage must be increased by the percentage of the increase in the cost of living. Washington state employers must also adhere to all federal minimum wage standards.

For more information on Washington’s minimum wage laws, visit our Washington Minimum Wage page, which includes resources on topics such as minimum wage, tip minimum wage, tip sharing and pooling, and subminimum wages.

Washington Overtime

State labor laws require an employer to pay overtime to employees, unless otherwise exempt, at the rate of one and a half times the regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 per workweek.

Beginning on January 1, 2022, Washington wage and hour laws require employers to pay agricultural employees overtime after 55 hours worked in a workweek. The overtime threshold will decrease on January 1, 2023, to 48 hours worked in a workweek and then on January 1, 2024, to 40 hours worked in a workweek.

WA Dept. of Labor & Industries: Overtime. See FLSA: Overtime for more information regarding overtime requirements.

Prevailing Wages

Under certain circumstances, you may be required to pay residents rates established by the federal or state prevailing wage rates and rules. These rates may be different from the state’s standard minimum wage rates.

Employees may be eligible for prevailing wages if they work on federal or state government or government-funded construction projects or perform certain federal or state government services. See the following resources for more information: Washington Prevailing Wages, Davis-Bacon and Related Acts, McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act (SCA), and Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act (PCA).

Meals and Breaks

Meal periods

Employers, not including agricultural employers, must provide employees who are 18 years old and older at least one thirty (30) minute meal period when they work at least five (5) consecutive hours in a workday. Employers must provide a 30-minute meal period for each five (5) consecutive hours they work in a workday. For example, if an employee works twelve (12) consecutive hours in a workday, the employer would be required to provide two (2) 30-minute meal breaks.

Employers must provide the first meal period at least two (2) hours into each five (5) consecutive work period. They must allow subsequent meal periods sometime after the initial five (5) hour work period has ended. Additionally, they must allow employees to take them no later than at the end of each five (5) hour period worked.

When employees work at least three (3) hours past the time they normally end their workday, employers must provide them an additional 30-minute meal period. For purposes of this requirement, a normal workday is a shift a person is regularly scheduled to work.

WA Admin. Code 296-126-092, WA Dept. of Labor & Industries Admin. Policy ES.C.6.1

Employers are not required to pay for meal periods if employees are free from any duties for their entire break. Employers must pay employees for their meal period when they:

  • require or allow employees to remain on duty
  • require employees to remain on work premises for the employers’ own interest (being on call, responding to phone calls or service requests, etc.)
  • call employees back to duty during their meal period even though they normally are not on call during the meal period

When employee meal periods are interrupted due to work, employers must ensure that they still receive 30 total minutes of mealtime. Also, when employers require them to work for part or all of their scheduled break, they must pay employees for the entire meal period, not just the portions they were required to work. WA Dept. of Labor & Industries Admin. Policy ES.C.6.1

Employers may agree, upon request, to allow workers to waive their meal periods, although employers are not required to do so. Employers may request employees to submit their requests to waive these breaks in writing. They may revoke their waiver or choose to take a meal period in spite of the waiver at any time. WA Dept. of Labor & Industry Admin. Policies ES.C.6.1

Rest Breaks

Employers, not including agricultural businesses, are required to provide those who are 18 years old and older a paid rest break of at least ten (10) minutes for every four (4) hours worked. Employers should attempt to schedule rest periods as close to the midpoint of the four (4) hours work period as possible.

Also, employers must allow them to take rest periods no later than the end of the third hour of each four (4) hours work period. During the rest periods, they must be free from all work duties, exertions, and activities. Employers may require them to remain on their premises during the rest period. WA Dept. of Labor & Industries Admin. Policy ES.C.6.1

The scheduled rest period requirement applies unless they allow their workers to take intermittent rest breaks equivalent to ten (10) minutes for each four (4) hours worked. In these situations, scheduled 10-minute rest periods are not required. Intermittent rest periods are periods of time shorter than ten (10) minutes, usually unscheduled, in which employees are allowed to rest, relax, and engage in brief personal activities while relieved of all work duties.

Breaks that are too short to permit any meaningful rest, including bathroom breaks and brief stops to grab food or drink to consume while working, cannot be counted towards the ten (10) minute break requirement. See Pellino v. Brink’s, 267 P.3d 383 (2011).

In certain circumstances, employers who have a business need may require an employee to stay on call as long as they are still free to do as they please during the break. When they are called into work during their rest periods, the rest period converts to an intermittent rest period and employers must ensure that they subsequently receive enough break time to meet the ten (10) minute requirement. WA Dept. of Labor and Industry Rest Breaks, Meal Periods & Schedules

Employers may apply to the Washington Department of Labor and Industries for a variance from state requirements. They must show that the variance is needed due to the nature of the work.

WA Dept. of Labor and Industry Rest Breaks, Meal Periods & Schedules

Public employers

The statutory requirements do not apply to:

  • Public employers with a local resolution, ordinance, or rule in effect prior to April 1, 2003, that has provisions for meal and rest periods different from those required by Washington state law, or
  • Employees of public employers who have entered into collective bargaining contracts, labor/management agreements, or other mutual agreements that specifically vary from or supersede, in part or in total, the rules regarding meal and rest periods, or
  • Public employers with collective bargaining agreements (CBA) in effect prior to April 1, 2003, that provide for meal and rest periods that are different from the state requirements. The public employer may continue to follow the CBA until its expiration. Subsequent collective bargaining agreements may provide for meal and rest periods that are specifically different, in whole or in part, from the requirements of the state law.

WA Dept. of Labor & Industries Admin. Policy ES.C.6.1

Employees who are under 18 years old

Employers must provide employees who are 16 and 17 years old break periods as follows:

  • They must allow workers ages 16 and 17 to take meal periods that are at least thirty (30) minutes in length.
  • The meal periods must start no less than two (2) hours but no more than five (5) hours from the beginning of their work shift.
  • They may not require employees to work more than five (5) consecutive hours without a meal period.
  • They must allow them to take a paid rest period of not less than ten (10) minutes for each four (4) hours worked.
  • The rest periods must be scheduled as near as possible to the midpoint of the four (4) hour work period.
  • They must provide rest periods at least every three (3) hours.

Employers must provide those who are 14 and 15 years old meal and break periods as follows:

  • They may not allow workers who are 14 and 15 years old to work more than four (4) hours without being given a meal period lasting at least 30 minutes. The meal period must be separate and distinct from, and in addition to, any rest breaks.
  • They must allow them to take paid rest breaks of at least ten (10) minutes for every two (2) hours they work.
  • When employees who are 14 and 15 years old work four-hour periods, they cannot require them to work more than two (2) hours without giving them either a ten (10) minute rest break or a thirty (30) minute meal period.

WA Admin. Code 296-125-0285; WA Admin. Code 296-125-0287

Agricultural employers

Agricultural employers are required to provide an unpaid meal period of at least 30 minutes anytime an employee is working more than five (5) hours in a shift. They must provide those who work eleven or more hours in a day at least one (1) additional 30-minute meal. WA Admin. Code 296-131-020(1) They must also allow employees to take a paid ten (10) minute rest period during each four (4) hour work period. WA Admin. Code 296-131-020(2)

An agricultural employer is any person, firm, corporation, partnership, business trust, legal representative, or other business entity that engages in any agricultural activity in the state with one or more employees.

WA Admin. Code 296-131-005

Washington Nursing Mother Breaks

Washington labor laws require employers with fifteen (15) or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations to nursing mothers, including allowing nursing mothers to take reasonable breaks when needed to express breast milk for up to two (2) years after the child’s birth.

Reasonable accommodations also include providing employees with a private location, other than a bathroom, if such a location exists at the place of business or worksite, which may be used to express breast milk. If the business location does not have a space for the employee to express milk, the employer must work with them to identify a convenient location and work schedule to accommodate their needs.

WA Statute 43.10.005; WA Dept. of Labor & Industries: Pregnancy Accommodations

Vacation Leave

Washington state does not require employers to provide vacation benefits, whether unpaid or paid. However, an employer may provide employees with such benefits, which must adhere to the established terms in the employment contract or vacation leave policy. 

It is also lawful for an employer to establish a contract or a policy that denies employees payment for accrued vacation leave upon the end of the contract. If these terms are not met, there may also be specific terms that will deny employees payment for accrued vacation time.  

If the employer’s contract or policy is silent on the matter, an employer is not required to pay accrued vacation leave to employees upon the end of the contract or separation from employment. It is also legal for an employer to cap the amount of vacation leave that an employee can accrue over a certain amount of time.

Learn more about vacation leave on our Washington Leave page.

Sick Leave

Washington state provides employees with paid sick leave as mandated by law. Under the law, employees can earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours of work. There is also no limit to how much sick leave an employee can take. 

However, there is a partial use-it or lose-it rule, which means that employers are not required to allow you to carry over more than 40 hours of paid sick leave from one year to the next. This applies to all workers, including part-time, full-time, seasonal, and temporary workers.

Learn more about sick leave on our Washington Leave page.

Holiday Leave

Employers in Washington state are not required to provide their employees with unpaid or paid holiday leave. It is also legal for a private employer in Washington state to require their employees to work holidays. It is, however, not required for an employer to pay premium wages, such as 1.5 times regular pay, for working holiday hours. 

This is the case unless overtime hour qualifications are met. However, if an employer provides unpaid or paid holiday leave, it must comply with the established employment contract or company policy. In addition, there are Washington state holidays that are officially recognized and observed.

Learn more about holiday leave on our Washington Leave page.

Jury Duty Leave

Employers must provide their employees with a sufficient leave of absence to serve on jury duty. It is unlawful for an employer to threaten to discharge, coerce, harass an employee, or deny promotional opportunities after receiving a summons or serving on jury duty. Moreover, an employer in Washington state is not required to pay an employee for any time spent on jury duty.

Learn more about jury duty leave on our Washington Leave page.

Voting Leave

Washington state does not have any laws requiring employers to provide unpaid or paid time off to vote. Workers must therefore vote on their own time.

Learn more about voting leave on our Washington Leave page.

Severance Pay

Employers are not required to provide employees with severance pay. WA Dept. of Labor: Severance. If an employer chooses to provide severance benefits, it must comply with the terms of its established policy or employment contract.


Under certain circumstances, residents may be eligible for unemployment benefits while they search for another job. You are required to certify that you are unemployed on a weekly basis to receive these benefits.

Workers in Washington state are eligible for unemployment as long as various requirements are met. To qualify for unemployment benefits, a worker must have worked at least 680 hours in the base year. Moreover, at least some of the wages must have been earned in the state of Washington. 

You must not be unemployed due to any fault of your own. If you were laid off, fired, or had hours or wages reduced to qualify for unemployment benefits, it could not be due to any fault of your own. Quitting your job without sufficient cause will not allow you to be eligible for unemployment benefits. You must be actively seeking work and willing to accept a suitable replacement job.

See Washington State Unemployment Benefits.