Several new laws and changes to Washington State laws go into effect on January 1, 2020. Some of the more notable are listed here.
Minimum wage goes up
According to the Washington Department of Labor and Industries, the 2019 Minimum Wage in the state of Washington during 2019 is $12 per hour and will increase to $13.50 effective January 1, 2020. Washington employers must pay most employees at least the minimum wage for every hour worked.
Voters approved increasing the minimum wage annually with the passing of Initiative 1433 in 2016. The initiative set annual increases through 2020. Starting Jan. 1, 2021, increases will be calculated by using a formula tied to the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).
Smoking age goes up
House Bill 1074, entitled, “Protecting youth from tobacco products and vapor products by increasing the minimum legal age of sale of tobacco and vapor products” was approved by the Washington State House with a vote of 66 to 30 and by the Washington State Senate with a vote of 33 to 12 and was signed by Governor Jay Inslee this year.
The new law raises the minimum age requirement for legally purchasing tobacco and vapor products from 18 to 21 years of age.
The bill noted that many who purchase cigarettes for minors have been between the ages of 18 and 20. So raising the minimum legal age to purchase tobacco and vapor products will decrease access to tobacco products by minors. The bill also cited that 95% of percent of smokers start by the age of 21.
New car seat requirements
The Washington State Legislature approved updated regulations on car-seat and booster seat use.
According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, under the revised law:
- Children up to age 2 must be properly secured in a rear-facing car seat.
- Children ages 2-4 years must ride in a car seat with a harness (rear or forward facing).
- Children 4 and older must ride in a car or booster seat until they are 4’9″ tall.
- Children over height 4’9” must be secured by a properly fitted seat belt (typically starting at 8-12 years old).
- Children up to age 13 must ride in the back seat when practical to do so.
- Child restraint system must comply with U.S. DOT standards and be used according to vehicle and child restraint manufacturer.
For the best protection, a child should remain in each stage of restraint until they reach the maximum height and weight based on the manufacturer’s instructions.
As with previous law, drivers can be ticketed if a passenger under the age of 16 is not using the correct car seat, booster seat, or seat belt based on their age, height or weight.
New paid leave benefit
According to Washington Department of Labor and Industries, the Family Leave Act sunsets on December 31, 2019 and workers who need leave after that date will need to apply for Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML), a new state-run insurance benefit passed by the Legislature in 2017.
PFML is funded through premiums paid by both the employee and employer. The premium is 0.4% of employees’ gross wages, with the contribution divided between the employee and the employer. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees are not required to pay the employer portion of the premium but must collect and submit the employee share of the premium since their employees are fully eligible for the benefit.
Under the new benefit, workers are eligible for up to 18 weeks of PFML a year. Employees apply for PFML directly with the state and the state determines whether they are eligible. Employees may be eligible to take paid leave if:
- They or a family member experience a “qualifying event.”
These include serious illnesses or injuries that prevent someone from working, a new baby or child joining a family and certain military-related events.
- They have worked enough hours to qualify for paid leave.
Nearly every Washington worker can receive paid leave as long as they have worked a minimum of 820 hours (about 16 hours a week) in Washington during the qualifying period, which is about the previous year. The 820 hours can be at one job or combined from multiple jobs.
- Be able to provide proof of identification.
If eligible, workers on paid leave receive up to 90% of their weekly pay, up to a maximum of $1,000 a week.
Non-compete agreements for some employees are void
Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1450, entitled, “Noncompetition Covenants” was approved by the Washington State House with a vote of 55 to 41 and by the Washington State Senate with a vote of 29 to 19 and was signed by Governor Jay Inslee this year.
The law renders non-compete agreements void and unenforceable against employees making under $100,000 per year.
Some employers have been requiring employees to enter into non-compete agreements that typically would prohibit them from engaging in business activities that compete with the employer’s business even after their employment has ended.
The bill noted workforce mobility is “important to economic growth and development” and “agreements limiting competition or hiring may be unreasonable.”