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Employment and Labor Laws

Washington

Exemptions


Executive exemption

Washington exempts bona fide executive employees from its minimum wage and overtime requirements. WA Code 49.46.010(3)(c) To qualify as an executive employee, an employee must:

  • perform primary duties consisting of managing the enterprise in which he or she is employed or of a customarily recognized department or subdivision thereof that has a permanent status and a continuing function;
    • A recognized department or subdivision does not need to be physically within the employer’s establishment and may move from place to place.
    • When an enterprise has more than one (1) establishment, the employee in charge of each establishment may be considered in charge of a recognized department or subdivision of the enterprise.
    • Continuity of the same subordinate personnel is not essential to the existence of a recognized department or subdivision with a continuing function.
    • Management includes but is not limited to activities such as:
      • interviewing, selecting, and training of employees;
      • setting and adjusting their rates of pay and hours of work;
      • directing the work of employees;
      • maintaining production or sales records for use in supervision or control;
      • appraising employees’ productivity and efficiency for the purpose of recommending promotions or other changes in status;
      • handling employee complaints and grievances;
      • disciplining employees; planning the work;
      • determining the techniques to be used;
      • apportioning the work among the employees;
      • determining the type of materials, supplies, machinery, equipment or tools to be used or merchandise to be bought, stocked and sold;
      • controlling the flow and distribution of materials or merchandise and supplies;
      • providing for the safety and security of the employees or the property;
      • planning and controlling the budget; and
      • monitoring or implementing legal compliance measures.
  • customarily and regularly directs the work of two or more other employees;
    • Two or more other employees means two full-time employees or their equivalent.
    • Hours worked by an employee cannot be credited more than once for different executives.
  • have the authority to hire or fire other employees or whose suggestions and recommendations as to the hiring or firing and as to the advancement and promotion or any other change of status of other employees will be given particular weight;
  • devote no more than 20%, or, in the case of an employee of a retail or service establishment devote no more than 40%, of his or her hours worked in the workweek to activities which are not directly and closely related to the performance of the primary duties, except for an employee who is in sole charge of an independent establishment or a physically separated branch establishment, or who owns at least a 20% interest in the enterprise in which he is employed; and
  • be paid a salary of not less, exclusive of board, lodging, or other facilities, as follows:
    • January 1, 2021
      • Employer with fifty or fewer employees – an amount not less than 1.5 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
      • Employer with more than fifty employees – an amount not less than 1.75 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
    • January 1, 2022
      • All employers – an amount not less than 1.75 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
    • January 1, 2023
      • Employer with fifty or fewer employees – an amount not less than 1.75 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
      • Employer with more than fifty employees – an amount not less than 2.0 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
    • January 1, 2024
      • All employers – an amount not less than 2.0 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
    • January 1, 2025
      • Employer with fifty or fewer employees – an amount not less than 2.0 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
      • Employer with more than fifty employees – an amount not less than 2.25 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
    • January 1, 2026
      • All employers – an amount not less than 2.25 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
    • January 1, 2027
      • Employer with fifty or fewer employees – an amount not less than 2.25 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
      • Employer with more than fifty employees – an amount not less than 2.5 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
    • January 1, 2028
      • All employers – an amount not less than 2.5 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.

To determine the number of employees an employer has, the size of the employer is based solely on the number of Washington-based employees employed at the time of the effective date for each calendar year. Each Washington-based employee counts as an employee for the purposes of determining the size of the employer regardless of whether the employee works full-time or part-time. An employer classified as employing fewer than fifty employees under WA Statute 50A.10.030(8)(c) may rely on that classification for purposes of determining the size of the employer for the following calendar year.

Washington also exempts employees as executives:

  • Who owns at least a bona fide 20% equity interest in the enterprise in which the employee is employed, regardless of whether the business is a corporate or other type of organization;
  • who is actively engaged in its management; and
  • The requirements of WAC 296-128-545 do not apply to the executive employees described in this subsection.

WA Admin. Code 296-128-510; WA Admin. Code 296-128-545


Administrative exemption

Washington exempts bona fide administrative employees from its minimum wage and overtime requirements. WA Code 49.46.010(3)(c) To qualify as an administrative employee, an employee must:

  • perform primary duties consisting of the performance of office or nonmanual field work directly related to management policies or general business operations of his or her employer or his or her employer’s customers;
  • customarily and regularly exercises discretion and independent judgment with respect to the matters of significance; and
    • Administrative employees meet the threshold for discretion and independent judgment if, after comparing and evaluating possible courses of conduct, they act or make a decision after the various possibilities have been considered. Whether an administrative employee exercises discretion and independent judgment is based in light of all the facts involved in the particular employment situation in which the question arises. The exercise of discretion and independent judgment implies that the employee has the authority to make an independent choice, free from immediate direction or supervision. However, it can be determined that an employee exercises discretion and independent judgment even if their decisions or recommendations are reviewed at a higher level. Also, the exercise of discretion and independent judgment must be more than the use of skill in applying well-established techniques, procedures or specific standards described in manuals or other sources, and does not include clerical or secretarial work, recording or tabulating data, or performing other mechanical, repetitive, recurrent or routine work.
  • be paid a salary of not less, exclusive of board, lodging, or other facilities, as follows:
    • January 1, 2021
      • Employer with fifty or fewer employees – an amount not less than 1.5 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
      • Employer with more than fifty employees – an amount not less than 1.75 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
    • January 1, 2022
      • All employers – an amount not less than 1.75 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
    • January 1, 2023
      • Employer with fifty or fewer employees – an amount not less than 1.75 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
      • Employer with more than fifty employees – an amount not less than 2.0 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
    • January 1, 2024
      • All employers – an amount not less than 2.0 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
    • January 1, 2025
      • Employer with fifty or fewer employees – an amount not less than 2.0 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
      • Employer with more than fifty employees – an amount not less than 2.25 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
    • January 1, 2026
      • All employers – an amount not less than 2.25 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
    • January 1, 2027
      • Employer with fifty or fewer employees – an amount not less than 2.25 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
      • Employer with more than fifty employees – an amount not less than 2.5 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
    • January 1, 2028
      • All employers – an amount not less than 2.5 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.

The administrative employee exemption also applies to employees who:

  • preform primary duties that are administrative functions directly related to academic instruction or training in an educational establishment or department or subdivision thereof; and
    • performing administrative functions directly related to academic instruction or training means work related to the academic operations and functions in a school rather than to administration along the lines of general business operations.
    • academic administrative functions include operations directly in the field of education.
    • jobs relating to areas outside the educational field are not within the definition of academic administration.
  • is compensated:
    • on a salary or fee basis at a rate of not less than the amounts specified above, exclusive of board, lodging, or other facilities, or
    • on a salary basis which is at least equal to the entrance salary for teachers in the educational establishment by which they are employed.

WA Admin. Code 296-128-520; WA Admin. Code 296-128-545


Professional exemption

Washington exempts bona fide professional employees from its minimum wage and overtime requirements. WA Code 49.46.010(3)(c) To qualify as a professional employee, an employee must:

  • perform primary duties consisting of:
    • performing work requiring knowledge of an advanced type in a field of science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction; or
      • For qualification of the professional exemption, customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction is restricted where:
        • specialized academic training is a standard prerequisite for entrance into the profession, or
        • an employee attained substantially the same advanced knowledge through a combination of work experience and intellectual instruction.
      • Field of science or learning means the traditional professions of law, medicine, theology, accounting, actuarial computation, engineering, architecture, teaching, various types of physical, chemical and biological sciences, pharmacy, and other similar occupations that have a recognized professional status.
      • Work requiring advanced knowledge means work that:
        • is predominantly intellectual in character,
        • includes work requiring the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment, as distinguished from performance of routine mental, manual, mechanical or physical work,
        • generally uses the advanced knowledge to analyze, interpret, or make deductions from varying facts or circumstances, and
        • is not attained at the high school level.
    • performing work requiring invention, imagination, originality or talent in a recognized field of artistic or creative endeavor;
      • “Recognized field of artistic or creative endeavor” includes such fields as music, writing, acting, and the graphic arts.
  • be paid on a salary or fee basis at a rate of not less than $170 per week exclusive of board, lodging, or facilities, except for employees who hold a valid license or certificate permitting the practice of law, medicine, or dentistry and who is actually engaged in the practice thereof, and provided that an employee who is compensated on a salary or fee basis at a rate of not less than $250 per week (exclusive of board, lodging, or other facilities), and whose primary duty consists of the performance of work either requiring knowledge of an advanced type in a field of science or learning, which includes work requiring the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment, or requiring invention, imagination, or talent in a recognized field of artistic endeavor, shall be deemed to meet all of the requirements of this section;
  • be paid a salary of not less, exclusive of board, lodging, or other facilities, as follows:
    • January 1, 2021
      • Employer with fifty or fewer employees – an amount not less than 1.5 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
      • Employer with more than fifty employees – an amount not less than 1.75 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
    • January 1, 2022
      • All employers – an amount not less than 1.75 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
    • January 1, 2023
      • Employer with fifty or fewer employees – an amount not less than 1.75 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
      • Employer with more than fifty employees – an amount not less than 2.0 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
    • January 1, 2024
      • All employers – an amount not less than 2.0 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
    • January 1, 2025
      • Employer with fifty or fewer employees – an amount not less than 2.0 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
      • Employer with more than fifty employees – an amount not less than 2.25 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
    • January 1, 2026
      • All employers – an amount not less than 2.25 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
    • January 1, 2027
      • Employer with fifty or fewer employees – an amount not less than 2.25 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
      • Employer with more than fifty employees – an amount not less than 2.5 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
    • January 1, 2028
      • All employers – an amount not less than 2.5 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.

The professional employee exemption also applies to employees who:

  • has the primary duty of teaching, tutoring, instructing, or lecturing in the activity of imparting knowledge and who is employed and engaged in this activity as a teacher in an educational establishment by which the employee is employed; and
  • is compensated on a salary or fee basis, although requirements of WA Admin. Code 296-128-545 do not apply to the teaching professionals.

The profession employee exemption also applies to employee who:

  • is the holder of a valid license or certificate permitting the practice of law or
  • regarding medicine:
    • is the holder of a valid license or certificate permitting the practice ofmedicine or any of their branches and is actually engaged in the practice thereof; or
      • the exemption applies to physicians and other practitioners licensed and practicing in the field of medical science and healing or any of the medical specialties practiced by physicians or practitioners.
      • the term “physicians” includes medical doctors including general practitioners and specialists, osteopathic physicians (doctors of osteopathy), podiatrists, dentists (doctors of dental medicine), and optometrists (doctors of optometry or bachelors of science in optometry).
    • is the holder of the requisite academic degree for the general practice of medicine and is engaged in an internship or resident program pursuant to the practice of the profession.
      • Employees engaged in internship or resident programs, whether or not licensed to practice prior to commencement of the program, qualify as exempt professionals if they enter such internship or resident programs after the earning of the appropriate degree required for the general practice of their profession.

WA Admin. Code 296-128-530


Outside salesman exemption

Washington exempts outside salesmen from its minimum wage and overtime requirements. WA Code 49.46.010(3)(c) To qualify as an outside salesman, an employee must:

  • have primary duties that involve:
    • making sales, including any sale, exchange, contract to sell, consignment for sale, shipment for sale or other disposition;
    • obtaining orders or contracts for services or for the use of facilities for which a consideration will be paid by the client or customer;
  • is customarily and regularly engaged away from the employer’s place or places of business in performing their primary duty;
  • is compensated by the employer on a guaranteed salary, commission or fee basis; and
  • are advised of their status as an outside salesperson.

WA Admin. Code 296-128-540


Computer employee exemption

Washington considers computer systems analysts, computer programmers, software engineers, or other similarly skilled workers to be exempt professional employees if the following criteria are met:

  • they perform one of the following as a primary duty:
    • applying systems analysis techniques and procedures to determine hardware, software, or system functional specifications for any user of such services;
    • following user or system design specifications to design, develop, document, analyze, create, test or modify any computer system, application or program, including prototypes;
    • designing, documenting, testing, creating or modifying computer systems, applications or programs for machine operation systems;
    • any combination of the above primary duties whose performance requires the same skill level;
  • they are paid a rate of pay as follows:
    • January 1, 2021
      • Employer with fifty or fewer employees – an amount not less than 2.75 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
      • Employer with more than fifty employees – an amount not less than 3.5 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.
    • January 1, 2022
      • All employers – an amount not less than 3.5 times the state minimum wage prescribed in WA Statute 49.46.020 for a forty-hour workweek.

To determine the number of employees an employer has, the size of the employer is based solely on the number of Washington-based employees employed at the time of the effective date for each calendar year. Each Washington-based employee counts as an employee for the purposes of determining the size of the employer regardless of whether that employee works full-time or part-time. An employer classified as employing fewer than fifty employees under WA Statute 50A.10.030(8)(c) may rely on that classification for purposes of determining the size of the employer under this section for the following calendar year.

The exemption for employees in computer occupations does not include:

  • Employees engaged in the manufacture, repair, or maintenance of computer hardware and related equipment; or
  • Employees whose work is highly dependent upon, or facilitated by, the use of computers and computer software programs (e.g., engineers, drafters and others skilled in computer-aided design software), but who are not primarily engaged in computer systems analysis and programming or other similarly skilled computer-related occupations.

WA Admin. Code 296-128-535; WA Admin. Code 296-128-535


Other minimum wage and overtime exemptions

Washington exempts the following from its overtime requirements only. Employers would be required to meet any minimum wage requirements for these employees:

  • any person employed as a hand harvest laborer and paid on a piece rate basis in an operation which has been, and is generally and customarily recognized as having been, paid on a piece rate basis in the region of employment; and who commutes daily from his or her permanent residence to the farm on which he or she is employed; and who has been employed in agriculture less than thirteen weeks during the preceding calendar year;
  • any person employed in casual labor in or about a private home, unless performed in the course of the employer’s trade, business, or profession;
  • any person engaged in the activities of an educational, charitable, religious, state or local governmental body or agency, or nonprofit organization where the employer-employee relationship does not in fact exist or where the services are rendered to such organizations gratuitously. If the individual receives reimbursement in lieu of compensation for normally incurred out of pocket expenses or receives a nominal amount of compensation per unit of voluntary service rendered, an employer-employee relationship is deemed not to exist for the purpose of this section or for purposes of membership or qualification in any state, local government, or publicly supported retirement system other than that provided under WA Code 41.24;
  • any person employed full time by any state or local governmental body or agency who provides voluntary services but only with regard to the provision of the voluntary services. The voluntary services and any compensation therefor shall not affect or add to qualification, entitlement, or benefit rights under any state, local government, or publicly supported retirement system other than that provided under WA Code 41.24;
  • any newspaper vendor, carrier, or delivery person selling or distributing newspapers on the street, to offices, to businesses, or from house to house and any freelance news correspondent or “stringer” who, using his or her own equipment, chooses to submit material for publication for free or a fee when such material is published;
  • any carrier subject to regulation by Part 1 of the Interstate Commerce Act;
  • any person working in the activities of forest protection and fire prevention;
  • any person employed by any charitable institution charged with the responsibilities of childcare engaged primarily in the development of character or citizenship or promoting health or physical fitness or providing or sponsoring recreational opportunities or facilities for young people or members of the armed forces of the United States;
  • any person whose duties require that he or she reside or sleep at the place of his or her employment or who otherwise spends a substantial portion of his or her work time subject to call, and not engaged in the performance of active duties;
  • any resident, inmate, or patient of a state, county, or municipal correctional, detention, treatment or rehabilitative institution;
  • any person who holds a public elective or appointive office of the state, any county, city, town, municipal corporation or quasi-municipal corporation, political subdivision, or any instrumentality thereof, or any employee of the state legislature;
  • all vessel operating crews of the Washington state ferries operated by the department of transportation;
  • any person employed as a seaman on a vessel other than an American vessel;
  • until December 31, 2025, any farm intern providing his or her services to a small farm which has a special certificate issued under WA Statute 49.12.471;
  • an individual who is at least sixteen years old but under twenty-one years old, in his or her capacity as a player for a junior ice hockey team that is a member of a regional, national, or international league and that contracts with an arena owned, operated, or managed by a public facilities district created under WA Statute 36.100;

WA Statute 49.46.010


Overtime only exemptions

Washington exempts the following employees from its overtime requirements only. Employers are required to comply with any minimum wage obligations for the employees:

  • employees who request compensating time off in lieu of overtime pay;
  • any individual employed as a seaman whether or not the seaman is employed on a vessel other than an American vessel;
  • seasonal employees who are employed at concessions and recreational establishments at agricultural fairs, including those seasonal employees employed by agricultural fairs, within the state provided that the period of employment for any seasonal employee at any or all agricultural fairs does not exceed fourteen working days a year;
  • any individual employed as a motion picture projectionist if that employee is covered by a contract or collective bargaining agreement which regulates hours of work and overtime pay;
  • an individual employed as a truck or bus driver who is subject to the provisions of the Federal Motor Carrier Act (49 U.S.C. Sec. 3101 et seq. and 49 U.S.C. Sec. 10101 et seq.), if the compensation system under which the truck or bus driver is paid includes overtime pay, reasonably equivalent to that required by this subsection, for working longer than forty hours per week;
  • any individual employed:
    • on a farm, in the employ of any person, in connection with the cultivation of the soil, or in connection with raising or harvesting any agricultural or horticultural commodity, including raising, shearing, feeding, caring for, training, and management of livestock, bees, poultry, and furbearing animals and wildlife, or in the employ of the owner or tenant or other operator of a farm in connection with the operation, management, conservation, improvement, or maintenance of such farm and its tools and equipment; or
    • in packing, packaging, grading, storing or delivering to storage, or to market or to a carrier for transportation to market, any agricultural or horticultural commodity; or
    • commercial canning, commercial freezing, or any other commercial processing, or with respect to services performed in connection with the cultivation, raising, harvesting, and processing of oysters or in connection with any agricultural or horticultural commodity after its delivery to a terminal market for distribution for consumption;
  • any industry in which federal law provides for an overtime payment based on a work week other than forty hours. However, the provisions of the federal law regarding overtime payment based on a work week other than forty hours shall nevertheless apply to employees covered by this section without regard to the existence of actual federal jurisdiction over the industrial activity of the particular employer within this state. For the purposes of this subsection, “industry” means a trade, business, industry, or other activity, or branch, or group thereof, in which individuals are gainfully employed (section 3(h) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended (Public Law 93-259));
  • any hours worked by an employee of a carrier by air subject to the provisions of subchapter II of the Railway Labor Act (45 U.S.C. Sec. 181 et seq.), when such hours are voluntarily worked by the employee pursuant to a shift-trading practice under which the employee has the opportunity in the same or in other work weeks to reduce hours worked by voluntarily offering a shift for trade or reassignment;
  • any individual licensed under chapter WA Code 18.85 unless the individual is providing real estate brokerage services under a written contract with a real estate firm which provides that the individual is an employee. For purposes of this subsection (2)(j), “real estate brokerage services” and “real estate firm” mean the same as defined in WA Code 18.85.011;
  • any employee of a retail or service establishment for a workweek in excess of the applicable workweek if:
    • the regular rate of pay of the employee is in excess of one and one-half times the minimum hourly rate required under WA Code 49.46.020; and
    • more than half of the employee’s compensation for a representative period, of not less than one month, represents commissions on goods or services. (In determining the proportion of compensation representing commissions, all earnings resulting from the application of a bona fide commission rate is to be deemed commissions on goods or services without regard to whether the computed commissions exceed the draw or guarantee);
  • commissioned salespeople primarily engaged in the business of selling automobiles, trucks, recreational vessels, recreational vessel trailers, recreational vehicle trailers, recreational campers, manufactured housing, or farm implements to ultimate purchasers if the commissioned salespeople are paid the greater of:
    • compensation at the hourly rate, which may not be less than the rate required under WA Code 49.46.020, for each hour worked up to forty hours per week, and compensation of one and one-half times that hourly rate for all hours worked over forty hours in one week; or
    • a straight commission, a salary plus commission, or a salary plus bonus applied to gross salary.
  • employees working for a public agency in fire protection activities or any employee in law enforcement activities (including security personnel in correctional institutions) if:
    • in a work period of twenty-eight consecutive days the employee receives for tours of duty which in the aggregate exceed two hundred forty hours; or
    • in the case of such an employee to whom a work period of at least seven but less than twenty-eight days applies, in his or her work period the employee receives for tours of duty which in the aggregate exceed a number of hours which bears the same ratio to the number of consecutive days in his or her work period as two hundred forty hours bears to twenty-eight days; compensation at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate at which he or she is employed.

WA Statute 49.46.130


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