Washington News Service: SEATTLE - Salaried workers in Washington state who log long hours on the job soon could be eligible for overtime pay.
The Department of Labor and Industries has proposed raising the threshold for overtime pay for the first time in more than four decades.
Currently any salaried worker making more than $23,660 a year is exempt from overtime pay laws. That threshold is less than the annual pay for someone working a full-time job on the state's minimum wage.
Economic Opportunity Institute policy director Marilyn Watkins says as the law stands now, bosses can make salaried employees work 50 to 60 hours a week without costing the company any additional money for overtime.
"So you're losing out both on income for your family, but also the ability to have some control of your time and the ability to spend time with your family, for rest or personal time," she points out.
The income threshold would increase at different rates, with a lower threshold for small businesses and a higher one for larger companies, until it reaches nearly $80,000 a year for all employees in 2026.
At that time, the new rule would cover more than 250,000 workers.
Opponents maintain the measure goes too far and say the state should wait for the federal government's rule on this. The U.S. Department of Labor has proposed increasing the threshold to about $35,300 a year.
Watkins says Washington state should be a leader on this and other workers' rights issues and shouldn't revert to the lowest common denominator, especially as the cost of living grows for families.
She also notes that increased pay for workers gives them a chance to put more money into the economy and that overtime was created, in part, so that businesses could expand employment.
"Instead of just putting more and more and more work and more and more hours on their existing workforce, actually, if they had more work to do, going out and hiring another person," she stresses. "So it really was all about job creation as well as about protecting and building up economic security for working families."
Watkins adds that the current income threshold of about $23,000 also applies to the state's paid sick and safe-leave law. An update to this rule would guarantee salaried workers have access to leave.
Public comment is open on the overtime rule at the Department of Labor and Industries' website through Sept. 6, 2019.