Understanding the 2006 Wage Payment Act

The 2006 Wage Payment Act allows L&I to use a new process to collect wages owed to workers. The new process allows L&I to issue citations and assess penalties and back interest for wage violations.

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  • Expand/collapse What is the new process for collecting unpaid wages?

    L&I investigates wage complaints filed by workers and works with employers and workers to resolve them. If the dispute can’t be worked out, L&I will either issue a citation asking the employer to pay the wages or determine that the employer does not owe wages. Either way, the employer or the worker can appeal L&I’s decision through an administrative process.

  • Expand/collapse What is new in the Wage Payment Act?

    The new law gives L&I penalty authority and the ability to collect interest for the worker, thereby ensuring compliance with minimum-wage and wage payment laws.

    The new law strengthens L&I’s ability to recover wages, while at the same time giving employers stronger assurances when they have correctly paid their workers. After L&I issues a citation, an employee who accepts the payment of wages and interest may not file other actions against the employer for the same complaint. Additionally, L&I must waive the penalty if an employer pays within 10 days of receiving a citation. L&I cannot assess penalties if an employer relied on a written interpretation, policy, rule or determination from the director of L&I.

  • Expand/collapse How is it different from the previous law?

    Under previous law, when an employer didn’t pay wages or violated minimum-wage laws, the penalty was a gross misdemeanor, which required criminal prosecution by a county prosecutor, neither a reasonable nor effective approach to enforcement. In limited circumstances, L&I would file a lawsuit to recover wages on behalf of workers.

    Workers still have the right to go to court, hire an attorney or file in small claims court rather than filing a claim with L&I. In a private lawsuit, a worker can ask the court for double the wages where the worker believes the employer “willfully” failed to pay the wages owed. The court may also award attorney fees. Workers, however, have to decide within 10 business days after getting a citation whether to “opt out” of the administrative process and go to court. A worker who doesn’t opt out is barred from filing a private lawsuit. This provides additional certainty to employers that the citation process will fully resolve the wage complaint.

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