Seattle's $15 Minimum Wage Ordinance Becomes Law

Legal Alert

Seattle's Minimum Wage Ordinance becomes law on April 1, 2015, raising the minimum hourly wage for Seattle's lowest paid workers. On March 30, 2015 the City's new Office of Labor Standards released the final regulations under the Ordinance which along with the City’s approved workplace poster in English, and an expanded FAQ can be found at:

The final regulations include a few minor changes from the February 2015 draft version and no surprises. The final regulations define the terms “bonuses,” “commissions,” and “piece rate” and includes a streamlined definition of “joint employer.”

By now all Seattle employers should have implementation plans that include the required notices to employees, a preferred method of communication that employees know about and use, and any necessary alterations or upgrades to payroll tracking systems. These plans should be executed despite litigation and legislation developing in other forums.

An Update on the Status of Franchises and the Statewide Minimum Wage

Legal and legislative efforts to change or supersede the Minimum Wage Ordinance have not yet been successful. On March, 20, 2015, Judge Richard A. Jones denied the International Franchise Association's (IFA) motion for preliminary injunction in the IFA v. City of Seattle case, in which the IFA seeks to eliminate the provision of the Ordinance in which franchisees are grouped with their franchisor in determining whether they are a large employer or not. Also on March 20, the IFA petitioned the Ninth Circuit for a review of Judge Jones' Order. The bench trial is scheduled for October 13, 2015.

On March 31, 2015, consideration of a Washington State House Bill to increase the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour within four years ended when Senate Republicans cancelled a meeting of the State Senate Commerce and Labor Committee set for April 1, the last day for House bills to get a committee vote and advance in the Senate.

Wage Theft Complaints 

Also starting April 1, employees will be able to file administrative complaints under the Seattle Wage Theft Ordinance through the new Office of Labor Standards, which will administer both the Minimum Wage Ordinance and the Wage Theft Ordinance. The Wage Theft Ordinance imposes additional recordkeeping obligations on employers that go beyond state law. Prior to April 1, however, there was no administrative enforcement mechanism for wage theft in Seattle, only a criminal one. Additional information including the text of the Ordinance is available at:

For further information on Seattle's Minimum Wage Ordinance see Stoel Rives February blog piece.

For more information about the content of this alert, please contact Keelin Curran.

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