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Protecting workers from wage law violations


Council adopts ordinance that prohibits contracts with employers who willfully and unlawfully withhold pay


The Metropolitan King County Council today took action to promote the economy while protecting workers from wage law violations. The Council unanimously adopted legislation prohibiting employers who willfully and unlawfully withhold wages from their employees from entering into business contracts with King County.

“During this tough economy, King County must do everything it can to ensure that workers receive the wages they have rightfully earned,” said Councilmember Bob Ferguson, prime sponsor of the ordinance and Chair of the Government Accountability, Oversight, and Financial Performance Committee. “King County should not do business with those who willfully violate state wage laws.”

“As a county whose namesake is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we must ensure that all workers receive the wages they expect for the work they’ve done,” said Council Chair Larry Gossett. “This ordinance strengthens King County’s efforts to ensure that this mission is carried out with a focus on those most vulnerable to wage theft because of their inability to fight back.”

Violations of wage laws – sometimes referred to as “wage theft” – include such actions as withholding an employee’s last paycheck, stealing tips, forcing workers to work off the clock, paying employees less than the minimum wage, and not compensating employees for overtime.

According to the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, there were more than 4,000 Wage Payment Act violation claims in 2010. More than 600 citations were issued for “willful” violations, meaning the employer knowingly and intentionally violated the law.

Under the adopted ordinance, willful violations of state wage laws are added to the list of causes for which employers will be disbarred or suspended from contracting with the County. The ordinance also strengthens existing provisions of the County Code that provide for the disbarment or suspension of a person or company from consideration of contract awards for other illegal activities, such as embezzlement or fraud. The ordinance also directs the Executive to develop procedures and criteria to enforce the new provisions.

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