Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday signed a pair of bills sponsored by Sen. Steve Conway into law.
The governor signed Senate Bill 5355, which will give working people another tool to recoup lost wages by expanding Washington’s existing wage lien system to include additional industries.
Inslee also signed SB 5046, which allows the parties to a workers’ compensation claim to agree to have the claim resolution settlement be paid out in a single lump sum or be paid on a structured basis.
Wage theft is an ongoing issue, particularly for low wage workers. A 2017 study from the Economic Policy Institute estimated that in the 10 most populous states, people earning minimum wage lose on average $3,300 annually to wage theft by employers.
“Most of the people who experience the worst of wage theft are already living paycheck to paycheck,” said Sen. Steve Conway (D-Tacoma) the bill’s prime sponsor. “It’s important for these folks to have another tool to help them get back the money owed to them, and to hold those accountable that have been found liable in incidents of wage theft.”
Under the bill, a worker who has made a claim against an employer for wage theft, can put a hold on an employer’s asset while the wage theft claim is adjudicated. If the worker wins the claim, the worker would take possession of the property.
Construction workers in Washington have had the ability to recoup lost wages in this fashion for over a century. SB 5355 would simply extend this ability to working people in other industries such as retail, landscape, restaurants, and others.
The states of Maryland and Wisconsin have similar programs in place to help workers receive the pay they’re due.
SB 5046 received unanimous support in both the Senate and House. SB 5355 was a bit more contentious. It passed by a slim 25-24 margin in the Senate and 51-46 in the House.