Since 2012, the Seattle City Council has passed three significant employment laws: a law requiring employers to provide paid sick leave, a law banning businesses from prescreening employees based on their criminal history and, perhaps most significantly, a law that raises the minimum wage for Seattle employees beginning in April 2015.
Now the city wants one office to manage them all.
Mayor Ed Murray announced a plan to open an Office of Labor Standards that will investigate violations of Seattle’s wage laws and educate employees and employers on the new laws.
“We need a one-stop shop for both employees and employers so they can get clear guidance and compliance on how to enforce the laws that we have passed,” Murray said at a press conference Sept. 15.
Currently, the Office of Civil Rights enforces the paid sick leave, criminal screening ban and employment discrimination laws.
Murray’s proposed labor standards office would shift the Office of Civil Rights’ work to a single office. He has proposed a budget of $511,000 in 2015 and $600,000 in 2016.
The director of the office would report to the mayor. By 2016, the office should have seven employees, adding 5.5 positions to the 1.5 positions currently working on these issues at the Office of Civil Rights.
Councilmember Nick Licata first proposed the plan in April, based on San Francisco’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement. He said the office is necessary to make the city’s labor laws work.
“Good legislation often gets passed, and unfortunately it often gets ignored or lost,” Licata said at the press conference.
The Seattle Office of Civil Rights will hold public forums this fall and winter to collect input on rule-making for the city’s new minimum wage law. The city needs to establish guidelines to determine which wage businesses will be required to pay. The law sets different hourly rates depending on the size of a business and whether they provide health care.
San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors established its labor standards office in 2001 for a single purpose: to enforce a minimum wage for construction workers doing city work. In the beginning it consisted of one manager and two investigators.
Today, the office, with 18 staff members, enforces 10 labor laws, including San Francisco’s city-based minimum wage and paid sick-leave laws.
Seattle Office of Civil Rights Director Patricia Lally said the city will create a website and mobile app to help employers and employees understand the new minimum wage law.
The office will hold two public forums in October, another in November and a final forum in January to discuss the first draft of the rules. The minimum-wage ordinance goes into effect April 1.