FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 29, 2017
Contact: Cynthia Santana
Rule revisions include eliminating subminimum wages for people with disabilities and changes from statewide Initiative 1433.
The revisions include the elimination of the subminimum wage for people with disabilities, a practice that mirrored state law. The City of Seattle and the Seattle Commission for People with DisAbilities supported taking this historic step this summer. The commission voted unanimously at its June meeting to end the exemption allowing employers in Seattle to pay a subminimum wage for their disabled workers.
“This change is long overdue,” said OLS Director Dylan Orr who served for over five years at the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), including two years as chief of staff for the Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP). “This is a civil rights issue, and we are proud to be addressing it. The raise in wage closes the wage gap that could exist under the former law between people with disabilities and people without disabilities doing the same work,” said Orr. “OLS received a significant number of public comments. We reviewed over 65 submissions, and take each and every one seriously. We want to thank the public for its concern and participation.”
The revisions also reflect legislation passed during the 2017 budget process establishing OLS as an independent office; changes resulting from the Wage Theft Prevention and Harmonization Ordinance of 2015 and statewide Initiative 1433; and other requests for clarification from the public.
Key revisions include:
Employment in Seattle: Clarified that the phrase, “… typically based outside of the City working in the City on an occasional basis,” means the employee works for an employer outside Seattle city limits for more than 50% of the employee’s work hours in a year.
Special certificates: Removed the Director’s authority to issue Special Certificates permitting employers to pay employees with a disability less than Seattle’s minimum wage.
Service charges: Clarified that service charges paid to an employee may count toward commissions or Seattle’s minimum wage and minimum compensation, but only for the employee’s earnings above the state minimum wage.
Employers’ payments toward individual employee’s medical benefits plans: Clarified that an employer can pay the lower minimum wage allowed by the ordinance only when that employer is paying toward an individual employee’s medical plan and the employee is enrolled and is eligible to receive benefits. Exceptions to this rule include if an employer is paying toward an individual employee’s medical benefits during a waiting period for enrollment and eligibility or if an employer is paying toward a multi-employer health and welfare benefit plan established under the Taft-Hartley Act.
Payroll records: Clarified that employers must keep records of service charges and tips paid to employees, payments toward employees’ medical benefits, and the actuarial value of medical benefits. Work Study: Deleted the definition of “work study.”
OLS issued initial draft revisions for notice and comment in late February 2017 and issued additional revisions in August 2017. OLS carefully reviewed and considered numerous comments from stakeholders regarding the proposed change to subminimum wages and service charges. OLS also worked closely with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries to clarify certain issues before finalizing the rules.
This fall, OLS will submit legislation to City Council codify the elimination of the subminimum wage for people with disabilities. The City Council will vote on this legislation before the end of the year. For more information, visit https://www.seattle.gov/laborstandards or call 206-256-5297.