What is the Washington State Minimum Wage?
In 2023, Washington State’s minimum wage is $15.74, and it became the highest state rate in the nation.
Washington surpassed California — long a leader in high minimum wage rates — at the start of the year.
Following a few years of scheduled increases, Washington in 2021 moved to indexed rates based on the applicable Consumer Price Index (CPI).
The state’s current rate is effective as of Jan. 1, 2023. It’s set to go up again on Jan. 1, 2024, and depending on the CPI figure it could still be the highest state minimum wage rate in the U.S. next year.
Washington State’s minimum wage does not include a separate rate for tipped employees.
Minimum Wage Management. Simplified.
The History of Washington State Minimum Wage
Washington for several years has a minimum wage above the federal level, which hasn’t increased since 2009.
The latest law was enacted through a ballot referendum in 2016. It called for scheduled increases starting in 2017. The final scheduled bump, to $13.50, was in 2020.
Since that time, Washington State minimum wage has gone up through cost-of-living adjustments based on the CPI. And it hit the historically high number of $15.74 (outpacing the California minimum wage of $15.50) at the beginning of 2023.
Under Washington’s minimum wage statute, state officials are to announce the new indexed rate on Sept. 30 of the year preceding the next increase.
What is the minimum wage for tipped employees in Washington?
While Washington does not have a different rate for employees who regularly receive tips, there are several other facets of the law to note.
Under certain circumstances, employers can apply for a subminimum wage certificate to pay less than the standard rate:
- 14- and 15-year-old employees – not less than 85 percent of the minimum wage
- Employees with disabilities – not less than 75 percent of the minimum wage
- On-the-job learners – not less than 85 percent of the minimum wage
- Student learners – not less than 75 percent of the minimum wage
- Student workers – not less than 75 percent of the minimum wage
Also, the definition of “employee” under the Washington state minimum wage law does not include certain farm workers, some people who work at nonprofit groups, newspaper carriers or vendors, and more. Employers with questions about the law should consult legal counsel.
What is the Washington exempt salary threshold for 2023?
Lastly, the exempt salary threshold for Washington state, effective Jan. 1, 2023, is:
- Large businesses – 51 or more employees: $65,478.40 annually ($1,259.20 per week)
- Small businesses – 50 or fewer employees: $57,293.60 annually ($1,101.80 per week)
- Hourly computer professionals: $55.09 per hour
Learn More About State Minimum Wage Rates 2023
Washington Cities with Minimum Wage Rate Updates in 2023
Meanwhile, in addition to the Washington state minimum wage, employers in three other jurisdictions also have separate rates to worry about.
To start, both Seattle and SeaTac have their own rates. And, you guessed it, they’re high.
Both cities increased their rates at the beginning of 2023. Like the state, they are also seeing indexed increases.
What is Seattle’s Minimum Wage in 2023?
Seattle’s minimum wage increased to $18.69, effective Jan. 1, 2023, for large employers.
In case you’re wondering… What’s the Highest Minimum Wage in 2023?
In SeaTac, its minimum wage rate only applies to hospitality and transportation employees. Still, it’s another substantial number, with a rate of $19.06, effective Jan. 1, 2023.
What is minimum wage in Tukwila, WA in 2023?
However, Seattle and SeaTac will soon be joined by another Washington city with its own minimum wage rate: Tukwila.
Starting in July 2023, Tukwila will have its own minimum wage rate of $19.06 per hour, as determined by a voter-approved minimum wage ballot measure. This minimum wage requirement applies to certain employers in Tukwila and is the same as neighboring SeaTac’s minimum wage rate.
Additionally, the new Tukwila ordinance mandates that employers must prioritize offering additional work hours to current employees before hiring new workers or subcontractors.
How Many States Have a $15 Minimum Wage?
A look at the Washington state minimum wage situation illustrates the challenges facing employers and managing the myriad rates across the U.S.
Plus, with more jurisdictions moving to indexed rates rather than scheduled increases, the process of applying and tracking rates only becomes more cumbersome.
A new federal minimum wage rate has long been discussed but never acted on, so more jurisdictions have enacted their own rates — or put the decision before voters, as we saw with Tukwila last year. And that means additional compliance concerns for employers.
Employers in Washington state have needed to keep an eye on the state minimum wage rate for several years.
While it is notable that Washington now holds the title of the highest state minimum wage rate in the U.S., it is just one of the many issues large employers face these days, including laws related to:
This is in addition to recordkeeping and reporting requirements, whether employees need access to a labor law poster or notice, and the potential for litigation to potentially change the status of laws, as was the case recently in Michigan.
As always, employers should double check the employment laws where they have locations to ensure compliance.