Our Time Counts: Urge L&I to expand overtime rights to more than 200,000 underpaid workers

Nobody should have to work without getting paid for it. 
Target: Washington State Department of Labor & Industries

But right here in Washington state, there’s a loophole that lets companies get out of paying overtime — no matter how many hours you work. They simply have to pay you a salary and claim the nature of your job makes you “exempt” from overtime… and then they don’t have to pay you an extra dime if you work more than 40 hours in a week.

Technically there are rules about what kind of jobs can be exempt, but usually your employer is the one who tells you whether you get overtime or not. If you think they’re wrong, you maybe could file a claim over that classification. But unless you have a lawyer on retainer, in the day to day reality of the workplace, your employer gets to decide.

The good news: the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is working on new rules that could finally close the overtime loophole for hundreds of thousands of salaried workers.

We’re asking the state to require that any worker who’s paid less than three times the minimum wage (about $75,000 a year) gets time-and-a-half if they work more than 40 hours a week — regardless of whether or not they’re hourly or salaried, and no matter what fancy title their boss gives them.

It may seem weird to think of a salaried worker getting overtime pay, but as recently as the 1970s, more than 60% of salaried workers got time-and-a-half when they worked overtime. Now just 7% of salaried workers do — and it’s not because people are working less.

Workers won the 40-hour workweek a long time ago. It should be the standard, not the exception. Some jobs may require long hours, but if an employer expects someone to work more than 40 hours a week, they should be expected to pay accordingly.Workers are human beings, and our time counts, too.