How & Where to File for Unpaid Wages in Washington State

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Washington law requires employers to pay their employees at least once per month.
Washington law requires employers to pay their employees at least once per month. (Image: Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

In Washington, employees can file for unpaid wages against their employers. The Washington Department of Labor and Industries has the authority to collect unpaid wages for employees under the 2006 Wage Payment Act. The Washington Department of Labor and Industries can help unpaid workers pursue wage claims at no cost for unpaid work hours and unpaid wages. Employees can file their wage payment complaints by downloading a complaint form on the department’s web site or by visiting a local office.

Employees can file for unpaid wages by submitting paperwork with the Washington Department of Labor and Industries. Washington law allows employees to file complaints against their employers who failed to pay for medical leave under the state’s leave laws, failed to pay them minimum wage or overtime or illegally deducted their wages in violation of the state’s paycheck deduction laws. Additionally, Washington law prohibits employers from paying their salaried professional, administrative or executive employees less than the state’s allowable minimum salary wages. Under Washington law, employers cannot collect overpaid wages from an employee after 90 days of paying him.

Forms and Statute of Limitations

Unpaid employees can file their complaints through the Washington Department of Labor and Industries by completing a “Worker Rights Complaint” form. The department has the legal authority to pursue wage complaints filed within the allowable limitations period. Washington law requires employees to file their wage claims within three years from when their wages were originally due. Complainants should submit their forms after completing Sections C and D. In Section C of the complaint form, a complainant should list the amount of unpaid wages he alleges is due. In Section D, she should list the employer’s failure to comply with a specific wage law, such as the minimum wage law.

Private Lawsuits

Prior to the enactment of the 2006 Wage Payment Act, employees were usually required to pursue their unpaid wage complaints through private lawsuits. Although employees can continue to pursue their unpaid wage complaints by filing suits in court, the Department of Labor and Industries provides employees with a no-cost method of pursuing their claims for unpaid wages. Although employees can pursue their wage complaints without incurring legal fees by filing complaints with the Washington Department of Labor and Industries, they are not entitled to “willful” damage penalties that may be awarded in court.

2006 Wage Payment Act

The 2006 Wage Payment Act requires employees to waive their rights to file future lawsuits against their employers if they accept settlement of wages and accrued interest for late paychecks. Under the act’s administrative procedures, once the department issues a citation against an employer, the employer has 10 days to pay unpaid wages without incurring penalties. After the department issues the citation, employees have 10 days to decide whether to pursue private actions in court by opting out of the administrative process. The act requires that the department waive penalties against employers who prove they failed to pay wages after relying on legal policies, rules or public opinions issued by the department’s director.

Considerations

Since state laws can frequently change, do not use this information as a substitute for legal advice. Seek advice through an attorney licensed to practice law in your state.

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