Vigilant Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law, HR, safety & workers' comp

Oct 07, 2021

WASHINGTON: Minimum wage and exempt salary increase in 2022

Wage and Hour 

The state of Washington has announced increases in the minimum wage rate and the exempt salary thresholds for employees, effective January 1, 2022. These increases impact several state wage requirements that you’ll want to be aware of if you have employees in Washington. The cities of Seattle and SeaTac have higher minimum wage requirements but haven’t yet announced the 2022 rates. Here’s what we know about rate increases for 2022:

Statewide minimum wage: The statewide minimum wage rate for non-exempt (overtime-eligible) workers will rise to $14.49 per hour (up from $13.69), effective January 1, 2022. Details are available on the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) Washington minimum wage webpage. Seattle and SeaTac require a higher minimum wage rate for employees working within city limits (see below).

Exempt salary: As a result of the minimum wage increase for non-exempt employees, the minimum salary for white-collar workers who are exempt from overtime will increase as of January 1, 2022, as well. All businesses (regardless of size) must pay exempt employees a salary of at least $1,014.30 per week ($52,743.60 per year). Although the salary threshold under federal law is only $684 per week, employers in Washington must pay at the higher state level. The threshold salary is required regardless of how many hours an exempt employee works in the week, so even a part-time employee must be paid at this new higher salary (not a prorated portion of it) to satisfy the overtime exemption. L&I has created an online overtime resource center to assist employers in understanding these salary requirements, including charts, fact sheets, workshops, and webinars.

Exempt computer professionals: The minimum salary rate for exempt computer professionals who are paid hourly will also increase as of January 1, 2022. All employers must pay their exempt computer professionals at least $50.72 per hour. Details about these changes are available on L&I’s “Hourly Computer Professional Phase-in Schedule.”

Noncompete Agreements: Washington law prohibits noncompete agreements with employees who earn less than the state’s annual threshold. The salary threshold is adjusted for inflation each year by L&I, and is currently predicted to increase from $101,390 (the 2021 rate) to approximately $107,301.04 for 2022. The exact 2022 threshold hasn’t been finalized but should be announced by L&I later this month. See our Legal Guide, Noncompetition Agreements, for guidance on additional requirements in Washington.

Seattle minimum wage: The 2022 minimum wage for employees working within the Seattle city limits isn’t out yet, but is expected to increase based on inflation and take effect on January 1, 2022, per Seattle’s Minimum Wage Ordinance. Seattle minimum wage rates apply to all non-exempt employees for all hours they work within the city limits.

SeaTac minimum wage: The City of SeaTac also maintains its own minimum wage rate covering certain transportation and hospitality employees working within the city. The current minimum wage for those employees is $16.57 per hour. SeaTac hasn’t announced any plan to increase this rate for 2022.

Tips: Seattle employers are required to provide a written notice to each employee before any change in their wage rate or other terms of employment. Although such notice isn’t required for employees outside of Seattle, advance written notice of these pay increases is certainly a best practice for documentation and employee morale. Watch our newsletter for additional wage increases as they are announced. For more information on overtime exemptions in Washington, see our Legal Guide, State Laws on the White Collar Exemptions from Overtime. If you have questions about which rates apply to your employees or whether they are exempt, contact your Vigilant Law Group employment attorney.

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.