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2022 Washington Compensation Requirements, Changes in the PFML Premiums and Benefits, and the New WA Cares Act Premiums



2022 Washington Compensation Requirements for Minimum Wage, Exemptions, and Noncompetition Agreements

Each year, the Washington State minimum wage, white-collar exemption minimum salary level, and minimum earnings thresholds to enforce noncompetition restrictions increase.

Beginning January 1, 2022, these items are increasing to the following:

For more details on each of these compensation elements, please see our 2021 Washington Compensation Requirements Update .

Seattle and SeaTac Minimum Wage Increases—Effective January 1, 2022

For those nonexempt employees working within the City of Seattle, the following Minimum Hourly Wages will apply beginning January 1, 2022:

For nonexempt Hospitality and Transportation Employees working in the City of SeaTac, effective January 1, 2022, the minimum wage is $17.53 per hour. Any employer who is uncertain whether their SeaTac employees are Hospitality or Transportation Employees should consult with an attorney.

2022 Increases in Paid Family Medical Leave (PFML) Premiums and Weekly Benefits

Washington’s PFML program provides state-paid weekly benefits to qualifying employees for Family or Medical leave. The PFML program is funded by premiums paid by employees and by employers with more than 50 Washington employees.4

Effective January 1, 2022, the PFML premiums due from employees and employers to fund the PFML program is increasing from 0.4% to 0.6% of the employee’s pay, up to the Social Security Cap. Of the full premium, employees pay 73.22% of the premium, and employers pay 26.78% of the premium. Thus, out of every $1000 in pay, the total premium will be $6.00, with the employee paying $4.39 and the employer paying $1.61. The premium is applied to all wages up to the Social Security Cap, which in 2022 will be $147,000. The total possible premium paid on behalf of an employee in 2022 will be $882.

Employers should be sure that their payroll systems are taking the correct premium deductions as of January 1, 2022. If an employer does not collect the correct amount, the employer is liable for the difference.

Beginning January 1, 2022, the maximum weekly benefit paid by the state for employees on PFML leave will increase from $1206 to $1327. The actual amount an individual receives is a function of their regular pay, and will be determined by the Employee Security Department.

New for 2022: WA Cares Act Premiums

In 2019, Washington enacted what is now known as the Washington Cares Act (WA Cares Act). This new program will begin providing benefits in 2025 to qualified individuals who need long-term support services because they require assistance with at least three activities of daily living, and who meet other criteria.

Beginning January 1, 2022, Washington will begin collected premiums from employees to fund the WA Cares Act. Employers are required to deduct the premiums from employee pay and transmit the premiums to the state. The premium rate is 0.58% of the employee’s pay ($0.58 for every $100 earned). Unlike PFML premiums, the Social Security Cap does not apply to WA Cares Act premiums, and the premium must be deducted from all the employee’s earnings.

Employees who had a comparable long-term disability plan in effect as of November 1, 2021, can apply for a permanent exemption from the WA Cares Act program. The Employment Security Department (ESD) determines whether an employee is eligible for the exemption. If an employee presents documentation demonstrating ESD approval of the exemption, the employer must cease deducting premiums beginning the quarter after the employee’s application for an exemption is approved. An employer who continues collecting premiums after the effective date of an exemption will be required to reimburse the employee the wrongfully withheld premiums. Exempted employees are not entitled, however, to recoup any premiums withheld prior to the effective date of their approved exemption.

Washington’s New Wage Claim Lien Statute—Effective January 1, 2022

A significant change for Washington employers and how they deal with an employee’s claim for unpaid wages has been thrown into the mix: effective January 1, 2022, employees with wage claims will be able to put a lien on the employer’s property. For more information on the new Washington Wage Recovery Act, see this article.

1 This is the employee’s salary, not all compensation received by the employee. A salary is a set amount that does not change from week to week based on the quality or quantity of the work performed by the employee. Employees must also meet a duties test to be exempt.

2 Computer professionals can be exempt if paid either the minimum salary threshold or this minimum hourly rate, provided they also meet the applicable duties test.

3 For enforcement of noncompetition covenants, this is “earnings” as found in Box 1 on a W2—that is, taxable earnings. It can include salary, commissions, etc.

4 Note employers with fewer than 50 Washington employees are exempt from payment of the employer’s share of the premium, though they can voluntarily pay the employer’s premium share. All employees are subject to the employee’s premium, regardless of the number of Washington employees of the employer.

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