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Minimum Wage

This page provides a quick overview of federal, state, and local minimum wage laws that apply to Washington State local and state government agencies including examples of local living wage codes.

Minimum Wage Guidelines

While municipal employers have great discretion in setting the salaries and other compensation for their employees, there are some guidelines that must be followed. Both federal and state laws provide that employees, with a few minor exceptions, must be paid a minimum wage.

Washington State Minimum Wage

The state Minimum Wage Act is set out at chapter 49.46 RCW.

Starting January 1, 2020, the state minimum wage is $13.50 per hour due to the 2016 voters’ passage of Initiative 1433. Beginning January 1, 2021 and each following January 1st, increases will be calculated according to changes based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), as set out by RCW 49.46.020.

For information on the state minimum wage, including a link to the required poster and a history of the minimum wage, see the State Department of Labor and Industries Minimum Wage pages.

Federal Minimum Wage

The federal minimum wage rate is $7.25 per hour. For further information regarding the federal minimum wage, go to the Minimum Wage webpage prepared by the U.S. Department of Labor.

At present, since the state minimum wage exceeds the minimum wage set at the national level, the state minimum wage is the effective minimum level of pay in Washington.

Local Minimum Wage Codes

Some local governments have adopted a local minimum wage, higher than both the federal and state standards. Seattle, for instance, adopted legislation to increase the minimum wage within the city in 2019 to $15 per hour for employers with 500 or fewer employees and $16 for employers with more than 500 employees. The $15 requirement can be reached by providing a wage of not less than $12.00 and $3.00 for medical benefits and/or tips. In 2020, employees of businesses with 500 or fewer employees must be paid $13.50, if they receive medical insurance or tips or $15.75 without insurance or tips. Employers with 501 employees or more must pay $16.00 per hour. For further information, see Seattle's Minimum Wage Ordinance webpage and ordinance below.


  • Seattle Ordinance No. 124490 – Establishes a $15 per hour minimum wage for employees working in Seattle and includes enforcement procedures.

Local Living Wage Codes

Some local governments have concluded that workers who work for employers who contract with the local government should be paid at a level higher than that set by either the federal or state government, what is typically called a "living wage." Since a “living wage” is established by a local government, there is no standard manner set for determining the amount of the wage. However, in most instances the wage is set according to the federal poverty guidelines for a specific family size. Any local “living wage,” of course, must be equal to or more than the minimum wage set by federal and state law.


  • SeaTac Municipal Code Sec. 7.45.050 – Establishes a living wage of no less than $15 per hour for hospitality and transportation industry workers. This living wage is to be adjusted annually to maintain employee purchasing power by increasing the current year’s wage rate by the rate of inflation.
  • Bellingham Municipal Code Ch. 14.18 – Provides that a “living wage” shall be paid by all service contractors and subcontractors covered under this chapter. The “living wage” was established at $10 per hour in 2002 and required to be adjusted annually according to changes on the Implicit Price Deflator.
  • Marysville Municipal Code Ch. 22J.090 – Establishes a living wage incentive program to promote the creation of living wage jobs in the light industrial zone of the city.

Recommended Resources

Below are miscellaneous articles that discuss issues related to establishing and implementing a living wage or minimum wage.

Last Modified: December 31, 2019