There are two laws—one passed this year and one last—that protect employees in Washington from not getting paid or for fees related to bounced checks. The first, RCW Chapter 60.90, became effective January 1, 2022. It allows most employees to place a lien on their employer’s property to secure unpaid wages, as well as interest, damages, and attorney’s fees related to an unpaid wage claim. (The only exceptions are employees who own at least 5 percent of a business or who qualify as highly compensated employees for purposes of federally regulated employee benefit plans—an amount set annually by the IRS—currently anyone who made at least $130,000 in 2021.) The law has a broad definition of “employer,” allowing a lien against the employer’s property and any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of the employer in relation to the affected employee. This means that an employee bringing a claim for unpaid wages can also tie up, or even foreclose, the property of responsible individuals at the company in order to get paid. Examples might include someone who processes payroll incorrectly or a supervisor who refuses to approve pay for time that was actually worked by an employee.
The second law is newly signed SHB 1794, which makes employers pay for dishonored paycheck fees, as long as the employee presents the bounced paycheck to the employer within 30 days of receiving it. According to the Washington Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), it receives approximately 220 wage complaints each year because of bounced paychecks. The new law is intended to not only ensure that employees receive wages due, but also recover bank fees because of the company’s error. (Employers can contest fees when the bank made the error.)
Tips: State law is very strict—and becoming stricter—about paying wages owed in full and on time. Make sure you have open lines of communication between your payroll department, finance controllers, and bank to ensure that wage mistakes don’t happen. Call your Vigilant Law Group employment attorney with any questions about how these laws may apply to you.