Employer Liability for Unpaid Contract Wages

Gregory A. Williams, Esq.

Attorney-Owner at Williams Law Group
Admissions: U.S. Supreme Court; U.S. Court of Federal Claims; U.S. District Court Western Dist of WA; all WA State Courts.

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by Gregory Williams, Esq. |  Under Washington State law, may an employer pay an employee a lower wage than such employer is obligated to pay such employee by contract? Here’s my point of view (please review our Disclaimer, Terms of Use & Privacy Notice before proceeding).

RCW 49.52.050 & 070

The applicable law is under both RCW 49.52.050 and .070 — Rebates of wages and Civil liability for double damages, respectively. The relevant portions of RCW 49.52.050 state as follows:

Any employer or officer, vice principal or agent of any employer, whether said employer be in private business or an elected public official, who

(2) Willfully and with intent to deprive the employee of any part of his or her wages, shall pay any employee a lower wage than the wage such employer is obliagted to pay such employee by any statute, ordinance, or contract

Shall be guilty of a misdemeanor

RCW 49.52.050 (emphasis added). And the relevant portions of RCW 49.52.070 state as follows:

Any employer and any officer, vice principal or agent of any employer who shall violate any of the provisions of RCW 49.52.050(1) and (2) shall be liable in a civil action by the aggrieved employee or his or her assignee to judgment for twice the amount of the wages unlawfully rebated or withheld by way of exemplary damages, together with costs of suit and a reasonable sum for attorney’s fees: PROVIDED, HOWEVER, That the benefits of this section shall not be available to any employee who has knowingly submitted to such violations.

RCW 49.52.070 (emphasis added).

CLIPSE v. COMMERCIAL DRIVER SERVICES, INC.

The court in Clipse v. Commercial Driver Services, Inc., 189 Wn.App. 776, 358 P.3d 464 (Wash.App. Div. 2 2015) found that RCW 49.52.050(2) prohibits an employer from paying an employee a lower wage than the wage such employer is obligated to pay such employee by any statute, ordinance, or contract. Id. (internal citation and quotation marks omitted) (emphasis added). This court went on to reason that RCW 49.52.070 creates civil liability, including double damages, costs, and attorney fees, for violations of RCW 49.52.050. Id.

CONCLUSION

Thus, depending on the circumstances of each case, I believe that an employer that willfully pays a lower wage than it’s obligated to pay under contract is taking a substantial risk; and, with few exceptions, it may be found liable for double damages, costs, and attorney fees.

LEARN MORE

If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced employment discrimination attorney to discuss your case. This article is not offered as legal advice and will not establish an attorney-client relationship with Williams Law Group, Law Office of Gregory A. Williams, P.S., Inc., or the author of this article. Please read our Disclaimer, Terms of Use & Privacy notice.

-gw