You are entitled to recover up to three times the amount of unpaid wages (back pay) in Seattle and up to two times the amount in the rest of Washington State, according to Washington Law. This includes overtime, lost meal and rest-breaks.

Washington State’s statute of limitations applies to all Washington and Seattle back pay claims, so act quickly.


Few things are as frustrating as an employer withholding back pay that you rightfully earned.  A Washington or Seattle employer that intentionally steals from their employees by withholding back pay deserves to face the consequences of the law. Indeed, this is essentially the same as any other theft.

Both federal and Washington state laws require employers to pay their workers for all wages earned, including earned but unpaid wages. Employers are also required to pay employees a wage that at least matches the state-mandated minimum wage. Any shortcoming may also be considered unpaid wages. Seattle and Sea-Tac also have their own minimum wages that prevail over the federal and state minimum wage rates.

Many employees are also entitled to overtime and paid breaks, as well as wages earned while “on call.” However, some employers fail to pay their employees for the full amount earned, resulting in back pay and unpaid wages. If an employer knowingly fails to pay all your earned but unpaid wages, they may be liable for twice the amount of the back pay.

Does an employer owe you back pay for any of these reasons? If so, our office can take steps toward getting you the unpaid wages you’re rightfully owed. Nobody has the right to steal from you, no matter what their justification, and we can best use the law to make sure you are fairly compensated for your hard work.

The rest of this page goes into more detail about unpaid wages and your rights as an employee .Please call us or take some time to review this page. If you think you’re entitled to unpaid salary or wages, including overtime and missed breaks, call (206) 388-5887 and speak with us. We can help you get justice.

How much am I owed?

Although it may appear straightforward that your employer must pay all your unpaid wages, the laws in this area are extremely complex.

FLSA and Overtime Exemptions

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the federal law governing minimum wage and overtime requirements. It is riddled with exceptions. For example, many employees do not qualify for overtime based on their weekly compensation and job duties. Currently, under FLSA, if you make more than $455 per week exclusive of room and board and qualify as an “executive employee,” an “administrative employee,” or a “professional employee” then your employer need not pay you overtime. Generally, these same exceptions apply to Washington State “white collar” employees.

However, many employees who are paid a “salary” may actually be entitled to overtime and paid breaks. Just because you are paid a salary does not make you ineligible for overtime and other wages.

Employee versus independent contractor

Likewise, if you are not supervised for how you perform your duties, you may not even be considered an employee. The law may consider you an “independent contractor” instead, and federal and state minimum wage requirements may not apply at all.

The focal point in determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor is whether the individual is economically dependent on the business to which they render service. Or is it the case that as a matter of economic fact, the person is in business for themselves.

Courts look to several factors to make this determination:

  • The degree of control exercised by the employer over the workers.
  • The workers’ opportunity for profit or loss and their investment in the business.
  • The degree of skill and independent initiative required to perform the work
  • The permanence or duration of the working relationship
  • The extent to which the work is an integral part of the employer’s business.

In short, the degree to which the individual is supervised or controlled is a critical factor.

Qualifying Details and Definitions Involving Back Pay

On the other hand, employees of certain public works projects may be entitled to much more than federal and state minimum wage. Likewise, “volunteers” and “student interns” may actually be employees who must be paid a minimum wage. You also may be entitled to wages when getting dressed at the workplace or if you show up for your shift but are told to go home for lack of work.

What about meal and rest breaks? Comp time?

Unfortunately, these issues are not subject to an easy determination without specific knowledge of your particular facts and circumstances. You should speak with us to explain your specific situation.


Finally, if you have complained that you are not receiving your wages then you may also be protected by whistleblower provisions of the applicable wage and hour statute(s). We also handle cases involving issues of retaliation.

Statute of Limitations

Please be mindful that there are strict time limitations for bringing a claim for wage and hour violations.

Take the Next Step

We are experienced in taking on cases around unpaid wages. We have successfully brought many class actions against employers who steal from their employees. Take a look at some of our recent work.

Do you feel like you’ve been unfairly treated, and are owed unpaid wages or back pay from a previous employer? Don’t wait until it’s too late to file a complaint – contact us and make sure you have a litigator working hard to ensure you get the money you rightfully earned.