Washington: Legislative Updates


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Quick Look

  • An amendment to Washington’s non-competition law expands existing restrictions.
  • Certain mandatory employer-sponsored meetings where the primary purpose is to communicate the employer’s opinion concerning religious or political matters are prohibited.
  • The Employment Security Department (ESD) can directly survey H-2A workers and collate data for annual reporting.
  • Covered uses and the definition of family members under the state Paid Sick Leave Law could be expanded.
  • Bellingham, Renton, and Burien have enacted their own local minimum wage requirements.


Several bills were sent to Governor Jay Inslee in March 2024 and have been signed into law. These laws cover a variety of topics including non-compete agreements, mandatory employer-sponsored meetings, immigration reporting, and paid leave. In addition, several cities enacted higher minimum wages.


Non-Compete Agreements

Effective June 6, 2024, SB 5935 amends Washington’s non-compete law to expand existing restrictions. The definition of a noncompetition covenant now includes agreements that prohibit a former employee or independent contractor from accepting or transacting business with a customer. The previous exclusion of restrictive covenants entered into in conjunction with the sale or purchase of a business now only applies to the purchase or sale of 1% or more of the business. The intention is to prevent employers from claiming the exclusion applies when the covenant is contained in employee equity grant agreements. Additionally, the exclusion of non-solicitation agreements is clarified to apply only to covenants that prohibit the solicitation of current customers of the employer. The prior notice of a noncompetition covenant at the acceptance of an offer of employment now also covers verbal as well as written acceptance of employment.


The noncompetition law has also been amended to make void and unenforceable contract provisions that are signed by a Washington-based employee or independent contractor if: (1) the choice-of-venue provision requires adjudication outside of Washington; (2) deprives the employee the protections or benefits of the statute; or 3) allows or requires the application of choice of law principles or the substantive law of any jurisdiction other than Washington state.


Declaratory actions based on pre-January 1, 2020 covenants are now permitted. Originally, the law created a limitation to prohibit retroactive application of the law. However, the amendment now allows retroactive application if the employer is still “explicitly leveraging” the pre-January 1, 2020 covenants. It is unknown what “explicitly leverage” means. In addition to limited retroactive application, individuals harmed by a noncompetition covenant can bring a private right of action. Again, examples of the types of harm are not provided.


Mandatory Meetings

Effective June 6, 2024, SB 5778, or the “Employee Free Choice Act,” prohibits certain mandatory employer-sponsored meetings where the primary purpose is to communicate the employer’s opinion concerning religious or political matters. “Religious matters” are matters relating to religious affiliation and practice, and the decision to join or support any religious organization or association. “Political matters” are matters relating to elections for political office, political parties, proposals to change legislation, proposals to change regulations, and the decision to join or support any political party or political civic, community, fraternal, or labor association or organization.


Employers are prohibited from penalizing employees who: (1) refused to attend or participate in an employer-sponsored meeting where the primary purpose is to communicate the employer’s opinion concerning religious or political matters; (2) refused to listen to speech or view communications for which the primary purpose is to communicate the employer’s opinion concerning religious or political matters; and (3) made a good-faith report of a violation or suspected violation of this section.


There is also a notice requirement for a posting that states employees’ rights under the bill. There is a private right of action for violations with remedies which can include injunctive relief, reinstatement to their former position or equivalent position, back pay and reestablishment of employee benefits (including seniority), and “any other appropriate relief as considered necessary by the court.”


Employers can still: (1) communicate to their employees any information that the employer is required by law to communicate; (2) offer meetings, forums, or other communications about religious or political matters for which attendance or participation is strictly voluntary; (3) communicate to their employees any information, or requiring employee attendance at a meeting or other events, that is necessary for the employees to perform their lawfully required job duties; and (4) require employees to attend training intended to reduce and prevent workplace harassment or discrimination. Religious corporations, entities, associations, educational institutions, or societies that are exempt from the requirements of Title VII are also exempt from this law. It remains to be seen whether this law would be preempted by the National Labor Relations Act which already prohibits such meetings.


Immigration Reporting

Effective June 6, 2024, HB 2226 allows the Employment Security Department (ESD) to directly survey H-2A workers and collate data for annual reporting. Employers do not have direct reporting requirements but would have additional field checks and visits from ESD for data collection purposes. The law’s intention is to address alleged underreporting and misinformation from employers in the H-2A program.


The ESD already conducts field visits and field checks to educate employers and H-2A farmworkers on their rights and responsibilities, provide information on employment services, observe working and living conditions for the workers, and to ensure compliance with H-2A requirements on wages, hours, and working and housing conditions. HB 2226 adds two additional requirements: (1) counting the number of H-2A workers the employer has working at each work site and the actual geographic location where the H-2A workers are living during their employment with the employer; and (2) an annual survey of non-H-2A hand harvesters of apples, cherries, pears, and blueberries. The survey will gather the following information from these hand harvesters: age, gender, whether born in the United States, years of residency in the United States, wage rates, and unemployment claims filed.


Paid Leave

Effective January 1, 2025, SB 5793 amends covered uses under Washington’s Paid Sick Leave Law for business or place of care closures to include a public emergency for both employers and Transportation Network Companies. “Public emergency” is not defined.


The definition of family member is also expanded to include any individual who regularly resides in the employee’s home or where the relationship creates an expectation that the employee will care for the person, and that individual depends on the employee for care. This excludes individuals who reside in the same home with no expectation of care, like a roommate. Also, the definition of “child” includes a child’s spouse, and “grandchild” and “grandparent” means the employee’s grandchild or grandparent.


Minimum Wage

The following cities have enacted their own local minimum wage requirements with more cities (and counties) expected to follow:


Effective Date Location Covered Employees/Employers Amount


May 1, 2024 Bellingham All employers


July 1, 2024 Renton (1) Large employers with 500+ employees;

(2) Other employers with 15+ employees or have an annual gross revenue of over $2 million


(1) $20.29/hour;

(2) $18.29/hour

January 1, 2025 Burien (1) Employers of 500+ full-time equivalents (FTE) in King County;

(2) Employers of 21+ FTE in King County.

(1) $3/hr. above state minimum wage;

(2) $2/hr. above state minimum wage


Action Items

  1. Review and revise leave policies, if applicable.
  2. Review noncompetition and non-solicitation agreements with legal counsel.
  3. Review policies and procedures regarding H-2A program workers with legal counsel, if applicable.
  4. Review and update minimum wage rates.
  5. Limit subject matter of employer-sponsored meetings to work-related purposes.
  6. Draft and distribute required postings.
  7. Have appropriate personnel trained on the requirements.

Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser. © 2024 ManagEase