News May 11, 2016 at 4:00 am

And Why Has It Taken the City So Long to Do Something About It?

James Yamasaki


No big surprise here. They don't get sick leave either, I guarantee it.
Re: Compliance letters

I've done FLSA enforcement cases here in Texas, but it goes without saying in not licensed to practice in Washington. I can only speculate--correct me if I'm wrong--that the enforcement procedures for Seattle wage laws are similar to or modeled after the enforcement procedures for the FLSA.

Under the FLSA, back pay must be double the difference between what the employees received and what they should have received. So if minimum wage was $7.25/hr, and employees were paid $5.25/hr, employers would owe the employees $4/hr for every hour they were underpaid. This compensates employees for the time value of money, and acts as a deterrent to noncompliance.

Knowing violations--that is, violations made when one was aware that the law was being broken--require triple back pay. So employers under that same scenario who knew they were illegally underpaying their workers would have to pay $6/hr for each hour underpaid.

A compliance letter, sent certified, legally establishes notice--provides a paper trail that can be established in court to show the employer knew they were underpaying. It makes it more expensive for them to drag their feet, so as the long enforcement process drags on, the employers dig themselves into deeper holes.

In Washington state and city enforcement of wage and hour law only awards actual damages. To get the double damages (as well as costs and reasonable attorneys fees) provided for by state law you must hire your own attorney.
Call me naive, but I have a hard time a company this size wouldn't meet their legal requirements. It just doesn't make a lot of sense. Maybe very small businesses that are unaware, but certainly this company has HR? I wonder what isn't shared here. I do have experience however realizing that people (smart professional folks) sometimes aren't really clear about what they are paid, so maybe there is some confusion?

If it is just blatant, then why would it take this long. You take your paycheck in with your hours and it shows you your hourly wage. End of discussion. You take legal action against the company. Okay, I know it isn't that easy, but a year if there is such blatant disregard?

Okay, you are naive. Both of the ubiquity of illegal practices by large corporations and the complexity and inefficiency of the bureaucracy that is supposed to enforce the law.

Your notion is how things ought to work, but it doesn't reflect reality.
Man, it seems like a little high-profile pro bono work would go a long way. Just the knowledge of it, that whoever's the biggest scofflaw standing will be in line for double damages, might get a lot of this cleared up.
As people who are about to be replaced at Wendy's, by ordering kiosks are about to learn, the real life minimum wage = $0 - Try as you might, the laws of economics can't be repealed.
That's exactly the point though. It isn't that much, to the massive, trans-national corporation, but it's a fairly significant portion of the worker's wages. It also represents a theft from the community, in the form of the economic multipliers those higher wages represent.

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