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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.


Overview

While municipal employers have great discretion in setting the salaries and other compensation for their employees, most employees must be paid at least a certain minimum wage under state and federal laws. In addition, a few cities have established higher minimum wage levels. Employers must pay the highest applicable minimum wage rate – whether local, state, or federal.


Washington State Minimum Wage

The state Minimum Wage Act is set out at chapter 49.46 RCW, as amended by the 2016 voters' passage of Initiative 1433.

Beginning January 1, 2021 and each following January 1, increases will be calculated according to changes in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), as set out by RCW 49.46.020.

Every year on September 30, the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) will release the updated minimum wage rates for the coming calendar year. These increases are based on the change in the U.S. City Average CPI-W for the previous 12 months prior to September 1. The most recent CPI report as of September 1 will always be the mid-August data release, with data reflecting the July numbers. This means the increase in the state minimum wage will be determined by the 12-month percent change in the CPI-W from July to July.

  • Effective January 1, 2020, the state minimum wage is $13.50 per hour.
  • Effective January 1, 2021, the state minimum wage increases to $13.69 per hour.

For information on the state minimum wage, including a link to the required poster and a history of the minimum wage, see the L&I Minimum Wage pages.


Federal Minimum Wage

The federal minimum wage rate is $7.25 per hour. However, since the state minimum wage currently exceeds the federal minimum wage, the state minimum wage is the effective minimum level of pay in Washington. For further information regarding the federal minimum wage, see the U.S. Department of Labor's Minimum Wage webpage.


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.

Example

  • 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.

Examples

  • 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: September 30, 2020