WASHINGTON ─ Minimum wage in Washington will increase to $11 an hour, from the current rate of $9.47, starting on Jan. 1, 2017.

In November, Washington voters passed Initiative 1433, which will raise the state’s minimum wage to at least $13.50 per hour by 2020. Starting in 2018, the initiative will also require employers to provide paid sick leave.

According to a Dec. 1 press release, the state Department of Labor and Industries “has received scores of calls asking for clarity on the details of the new law.”

The increase will happen incrementally. Under the new law, workers over 18 must be paid at least $11 in 2017, $11.50 in 2018, $12 in 2019 and $13.50 in 2020. After that, L&I will resume calculating yearly increases, based on inflation rates, as it has in the past. In 2017, workers under 16 years old can be paid 85 percent of the adult minimum wage, or $9.35 per hour.

When the new paid sick leave requirements go into effect, workers will earn leave at a rate of one hour per every 40 hours worked.

The new law does not change minimum wage exemptions or regulations regarding overtime pay. Rates will also be different in cities where citizens have passed local minimum wage rules. For example, Seattle, Tacoma, and the City of SeaTac already have higher minimum wage rates for 2017. For employers in those areas, the local minimum wage rate will apply as long as it is higher than the state minimum, the press release said.

According to a November Seattle Times report, about 2.1 percent of all full-time-equivalent jobs in Washington state were paid minimum wage in 2015, and about 14 percent of all workers earned less than $13.50 an hour. However, Pacific County has a much higher-than-average number of low-wage workers. According to the Times data, about four percent of local workers earned minimum wage, and 22 percent earned less than $13.50.

Under the initiative, L&I must adopt rules to enforce the new paid sick leave requirement, including, “…procedures for notification to employees and reporting regarding sick leave, and protecting employees from retaliation for the lawful use of sick leave…”

The official rulemaking process, which will include public comment opportunities, will take place in 2017. Interested parties can sign up for updates on the process on L&I’s Employment Standards Program listserv (Lni.wa.gov/Main/Listservs/WRWageHour.asp).

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