Keeping informed of changing employment laws is a never-ending task, and this year is no exception! The first few months of 2022 have brought many new and changing laws in Washington state. Here's a round-up of the most notable legal updates Washington employers should have on their radar:
- Salary and benefit disclosure requirements of the Equal Pay and Opportunity Act.
Beginning January 1, 2023, Washington employers with 15 or more employees will be required to include a wage scale or salary range in every job posting. Employers must also include a general description of all benefits and other compensation provided to the hired applicant. Employers are also required to provide this information to internal job applicants, but only upon request when an employee is offered a new position or promotion. To prepare for the law change, employers should develop a formal compensation plan, including pay ranges for each job and a process for regular review and adjustments. Additionally, employers may consider conducting a pay equity audit and correcting anomalies. As soon as salary ranges and wage scales are made public, current employees will notice—and compare them to their own.
- Silenced No More Act. A 2018 law already prohibits Washington employers from using agreements that prevent employees from disclosing workplace sexual assault and sexual harassment. However, effective June 9, 2022, those restrictions will become more widespread. The Silenced No More Act expands the prohibition to all employment agreements, including settlements, independent contractor agreements, and any other agreement between an employer and an employee. Employers may not restrict employees from disclosing conduct that the employee reasonably believes to be illegal discrimination, harassment, retaliation, sexual assault, a wage and hour violation, or other conduct against a clear mandate of public policy. However, employers may still require that employees keep confidential the amount of a settlement or severance payment and trade secrets or other proprietary company information. Employers are encouraged to have their existing severance agreement templates and other employment agreements reviewed by legal counsel.
- Wage Recovery Act. Senate Bill 5355, also known as the Washington Wage Recovery Act, became effective on January 1, 2022. This new law allows workers to place a lien on an employer's property for non-payment of wages. Advocates have heralded the Washington Wage Recovery Act as a powerful new mechanism for workers to collect their hard-earned wages from employers who wrongfully withhold pay. Previously, employees had to wait until there was a resolution of a civil demand, lawsuit, or governmental agency investigation to receive payment of unpaid wages. Now employees can hold a security interest in their employers' property while waiting for a resolution. "Employee" is defined as any individual who is currently employed or was formerly employed. Highly compensated employees who earn more than an annual amount established by the U.S. Department of Treasure are not eligible to establish a wage lien.
- Seattle Independent Contractor Protections Ordinance. Starting on September 1, 2022, Seattle's Independent Contractors Protection Ordinance, SMC 14.34, requires covered "hiring entities" to provide independent contractors who perform their work in Seattle with certain disclosures. A "hiring entity" is defined as any individual, partnership, association, or corporation that hires an independent contractor to provide a service. The ordinance covers contracts with compensation of $600 or more. In addition to the required disclosures, the ordinance requires employers to compensate independent contractors within the time limit outlined in the contract.
- Expand Fairness Act. House Bill 2076, also known as the Expand Fairness Act, provides certain benefits for rideshare drivers in exchange for a guarantee that drivers will be classified as independent contractors under relevant local laws. The bill guarantees a minimum pay rate per trip, paid sick leave starting in 2023, and workers' compensation benefits for work-related injuries, vehicle damage, and illnesses. This unique law provides a monetary safety net for rideshare drivers while also providing them the flexibility they seek as independent contractors.
- Washington Cares Fund. In 2020, Washington state passed a mandatory long-term care insurance program called the Washington Cares Fund. Payroll deductions to pay for the program were scheduled to begin on January 1, 2022. However, on January 27, 2022, Governor Inslee signed official legislation delaying the implementation to July 2023. The 18-month delay will allow the Washington Legislature to make critical improvements to the law, including expanding opt-out options for employees who live out of state but work in Washington, military spouses, workers on non-immigrant visas, and certain veterans with disabilities. Employers who deducted the tax during the law's uncertainty between January 1 and January 27 must refund employees within 120 days of the collection.
Of course, this list is not exhaustive, and there may be new legislation affecting your specific organization, industry, or location. Archbright members have access to a comprehensive Resource Library with Keynotes, sample policies, forms, and more to stay apprised of changing laws.
Members also receive timely Compliance Alerts when new requirements may affect their business operations. Learn more about Archbright and our membership benefits here.