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.
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.