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2024 Washington Updates to Minimum Wage, Exempt Employees, and Noncompetes

White text on black ground that reads Employment Law Update
Posted on October 5, 2023 by James Blankenship

Important developments are on the horizon for Washington State employers in 2024.

Beginning on January 1, 2024, the minimum wage in Washington will go up to $16.28 per hour, up 3.4% from 2023 and the highest statewide minimum wage in the country.  For employers in Seattle, SeaTac, and Tukwila you can expect an increase in the city minimum wage to be announced later this fall.

The minimum annual salary threshold for exempt employees statewide will also rise on January 1, 2024.  For both large (more than 50 employees) and small employers the minimum will be $67,724.80 per year for most employees, which is two times the minimum wage.  In August, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a proposed rule that would increase the salary threshold to $55,068.  However, because the Washington standard is higher this will not impact employers in Washington if the rule is finalized in its current form.  Employers should review compensation for any exempt employee who is currently making less than $67,724.80.  Employees below the 2024 threshold will either need to be given raises effective no later than January 1, 2024, or converted to hourly employees and provided meal and rest breaks along with overtime.

Additionally, the thresholds for noncompete agreements will rise to $120,559.99 for employees and approximately $301,399.98 for independent contractors.  In 2023 the Federal Trade Commission proposed a rule that would ban noncompete agreements nationwide.  Currently, it appears that it will be at least April 2024 before the Federal Trade Commission will hold a vote on the final rule.

Changes to Pre-employment Drug Screening

Beginning on January 1, 2024, it will be unlawful for many Washington employers to discriminate against an applicant based on the applicant’s personal use of cannabis off the job and away from the worksite.  Employers cannot make hiring decision based on the results of a pre-employment drug screen that tests for nonpsychoactive cannabis metabolites.  If an employer is using a test that does include result for nonpsychoactive cannabis, these results should not be reported to the employer by the testing provider.

The new statute includes a number of exceptions including: positions requiring a federal government background or security clearance, law enforcement, fire departments, other first responders, corrections officers, airline and aerospace positions, and safety sensitive positions where impairment would present a substantial risk of death.  The safety sensitive position exception will be the most significant for the broadest range of employers.  Importantly, the applicant must be informed that it is a safety sensitive position before the applicant’s application for employment.  Employers should ensure that job descriptions identify safety sensitive positions and any recruiters, human resources professionals, or others that might be soliciting applicants are aware of safety sensitive positions and inform applicants prior to application.

If you have questions or need additional information about these, or any Washington state employment laws, please contact James Blankenship or the Labor and Employment Law attorneys at Lasher Holzapfel Sperry & Ebberson.