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Understanding Overtime

Common questions about overtime rules

What is overtime?

Most workers who are paid an hourly wage and work more than 40 hours in a 7-day work week must be paid overtime. When paying overtime, a business must pay at least one and one-half times the worker’s regular hourly rate.

Is working overtime mandatory?

Yes. Businesses may make overtime mandatory even if the workers do not want to do so, and even on a day that is normally a scheduled day off. (Exception: registered nurses and licensed practical nurses. Get information here on nurses’ overtime rules.)

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Questions about alternatives to overtime

  • Expand/collapse When does a business NOT have to pay overtime?

    Most workers paid by the hour must be paid overtime for working more than 40 hours in a 7-day work week, but some do not. For a partial list of the types of workers who may not be required to be paid overtime, please go to Jobs Not Paid Overtime.

  • Expand/collapse Can a business and worker agree to waive overtime pay?

    No. Workers cannot waive their right to overtime pay. Businesses are required to pay time-and-one-half the regular rate for hours worked over 40 per week, even if the worker requests to work overtime hours without overtime pay.

  • Expand/collapse What about agreements to take time off later instead of overtime pay?

    Washington law allows a worker to request time off at a later time instead of being paid overtime wages in each pay period. This is sometimes called “comp time” or “exchange time.”

    • When the employee takes the time off, it must be at the rate of at least an hour and one-half for each overtime hour worked. In other words, the employee must either be paid overtime wages at time and one-half or be allowed to take an hour and one-half off for each overtime hour worked.
    • The comp or exchange hours may be paid at the regular rate.
    • Comp or exchange time must be at the employee’s request and must be agreed to by the employee. Compensatory time is considered a benefit to the employee and the employer may not impose the requirement on any employee who has not made such a request.
      Note: Federal law does not allow these types of agreements except for public employers and their employees, so most businesses and workers cannot enter into these agreements. Contact the U.S. Department of Labor at 1-866-487-9243 for further information.

Questions about hours and days worked

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Questions about overtime pay rates

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Questions about different types of workers and businesses

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For more detail, see L&I Admininistrative Policies:
Acrobat PDF file Minimum Wage Act Applicability (ES.A 1). (150 KB PDF)
Outlines when and to whom the state Minimum Wage Act applies. State overtime laws are included in the Minimum Wage Act.
Acrobat PDF file Overtime (ES.A.8.1). (161 KB PDF)
Interprets when overtime is due and how it is paid, and when it is not due.
Acrobat PDF file How to Compute Overtime (ES.A.8.2). (57 KB PDF)
Acrobat PDF file Salary Basis for White Collar Workers (ES.A.9.1). (106 KB PDF)
Defines what constitutes a salaried worker.
Acrobat PDF file Retail or Service Exception (ES.A.10.1). (25 KB PDF)
Explains how a retail or service employee could be exempt from overtime if the position meets specific circumstances.
Acrobat PDF file Q&A on Retail/Service Exception (ES.A.10.2). (16 KB PDF)
Acrobat PDF file Examples of Retail/Service Businesses (ES.A.10.3). (21 KB PDF)

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