Jason Whalen Announces Campaign for Reelection to Lakewood City Council

Jason Whalen

Jason Whalen has announced his campaign for reelection to the Lakewood City Council.

Deputy Mayor Whalen has served on the City Council since 2010. He represents Lakewood on the Pierce County Regional Council, is a member of the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County, and serves as the Council’s liaison to Lakewood’s Arts Commission. He is a member of the Pierce College Foundation Board, Lakewood Rotary, and is a Senior Fellow of the American Leadership Forum.

An Army veteran, Whalen served as a field artillery officer in Bamberg, Germany, from 1986 to 1989 before returning home to attend law school at Gonzaga University. Since 1993, Whalen has been in private practice, focusing on real estate, business, and employment-related litigation.

“I am proud of the progress we have made as a community over these past few years. Our budget is balanced with no reduction in services. Public safety has improved significantly. We remain focused on economic development with sound infrastructure investment in street and park improvements. Between 2017 to 2022, the city will invest more than $56 million in 43 transportation projects that will sustain and improve our economic vitality and quality of life. Funding totaling $3.4 million is allocated in support of numerous park improvement projects in 2017-18. And–we still invest 1% of our general fund (approximately $355,000 in 2017) in human services, including access to health, emotional support, and housing assistance. While much has been accomplished, much remains to be done. I look forward to working with my fellow Council members, our many community volunteers, and our residents to continue Lakewood’s progress over these next four years.”

Jason can be reached at 253-606-4937, jason@ledgersquarelaw.com, or jason@whalen4lakewood.com.

Ledger Square Law Salutes 2016 NEA National Heritage Fellow and Tacoma Native Michael Vlahovich

Drew Perine/The News Tribune

Enjoying a sunny Tacoma afternoon aboard the Commencement, the lawyers and staff of
Ledger Square Law toasted the success of Mike Vlahovich, a 2016 NEA National Heritage Fellow.  Born in Tacoma to Croatian immigrants, Mike is a master shipwright and third-Drew Perine/The News Tribunegeneration fisherman who has dedicated his life’s work to the preservation of the heritage of fisheries of the Northwest and the Chesapeake Bay.   During an afternoon outing, Mike provided Ledger Square lawyers and staff a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the Coastal Heritage Alliance, www.coastalheritage.org.  Ledger Square Law salutes Mike and his tremendous accomplishment!

Photos: Drew Perine / The News Tribune

Ledger Square Law Helps Dunk Unlawful Local Initiatives Sponsored by Save Tacoma Water

Clock Tower Tacoma

Seeking to influence the administration of water rights for future development,  a group of concerned Tacoma citizens (organized as “Save Tacoma Water” or STW) sought to place local initiatives on the ballot to amend Tacoma City Code and the Tacoma City Charter to require a public vote for any future water use application exceeding one million gallons per day (“STW Initiatives”).  Because the proposed STW Initiatives were facially invalid under established state law, Ledger Square Law attorney Jason Whalen, representing member investors of the Economic Development Board of Tacoma-Pierce County, teamed with attorneys representing the City of Tacoma, the Port of Tacoma, and the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce (collectively, as Plaintiffs), to score a significant legal victory which sustains the rule of law regarding appropriate, pre-ballot court review of local citizen initiatives.  Today’s ruling provides certainty for the Port of Tacoma, the EDB, and the Chamber over the City’s administration of water and water rights for prudent economic development in our community.   The ruling also saves the citizens of Tacoma thousands of dollars in unnecessary expense in placing unlawful measures on the ballot.

After significant briefing and lengthy oral argument, the Pierce County Superior Court Judge Jack Nevin granted Plaintiffs declaratory and permanent injunctive relief, finding that the STW Initiatives, as written, exceeded the permissible scope of local initiative power and were therefore invalid, as a matter of law.  By court order, the STW Initiatives are now precluded from placement on the November 2016 ballot—or any other ballot in the future, regardless of the signature validation by the County Auditor. 

The Court’s ruling properly relied upon the Washington Supreme Court’s recent decision in Spokane Entrepreneurial Center v. Spokane Moves to Amend Constitution, 185 Wn.2d 97 (2016), in holding the STW Initiatives legally invalid.

Changes To Wage and Overtime Laws Take Effect December 1, 2016

Wage laws change December 1st, 2016

Wage and overtime laws are changing once again. In May 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor announced its Final Rule updating the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The Final Rule takes effect December 1, 2016, and will update the minimum salary level every three years for the executive, administrative, and professional employees exemption.  Key provisions of the Final Rule are:

  1. The minimum standard salary increased from $23,660 to $47,476 annually (from $455 to $913 per week), which is the current salary level at the 40th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region – which is currently the South.
  2. The minimum annual compensation requirement for highly compensated employees increased from $100,000 to $134,004, which is the annual equivalent of the 90th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationally.
  3. The salary and compensation levels will be automatically updated every three years to maintain the levels at the above percentiles.  The initial salary increases take effect on December 1, 2016, and the first update will occur on January 1, 2020.
  4. Employers may now use non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to satisfy up to 10 percent of the new standard salary level. Payments must be paid on a quarterly or more frequent basis.
  5. The Final Rule makes no changes to the duties tests for highly compensated employees or employees under the executive, administrative or professional exemption.

All employers should review their handbooks and polices to ensure they are consistent with applicable law. Changes to the foregoing wage and overtime laws take effect December 1, 2016. If you have any questions or concerns regarding employee overtime or any other employment issues, please call us at Ledger Square Law.


Art at the offices of Ledger Square Law

Stay Posted for Upcoming Events

Previous Events

Lunch and Learn 11/10/2015

Ledger Square Law’s employment law attorneys Clemencia Castro-Woolery and Chrystina Solum will help you navigate the ins and outs of the new sick leave ordinance.

Lunch & Learn on November 10th when Melanie Harding from the City of Tacoma presents “rules” on Tacoma’s Mandatory Paid Leave. Ledger Square Law’s employment law attorneys Clemencia Castro-Woolery and Chrystina Solum will help you navigate the ins and outs of the new sick leave ordinance.

Chamber After-Hours 10/15/2015

Ledger Square Law hosted October’s Chamber After-Hours Event. Chamber After-Hours is a monthly networking event where you will have the opportunity to meet & mingle with small, medium, and large Chamber member businesses. This is your chance to promote your business, meet possible clients, and interact with new businesses.

Please join Pierce County Washington Women Lawyers on August 26 for their annual J-Fab event!

JFab Flyer

Each year, the PCWWL honors a local woman who is just fabulous for who she is and all she does for the community. Honoree this year is Jessica Hogan, a teacher and artist with Hilltop Artists, a local organization dedicated to improving the lives of young people through art. 

The event will be held from 5:30-8pm on August 26 at Ledger Square Law at 710 Market Street. PCWWL will also be collecting school supplies for children at the YWCA at this time. 

No RSVP is necessary. We look forward to seeing you there!

On The Employer’s Time – Washington’s Supreme Court Rules on Paid Rest Breaks for Agricultural Employees Paid on a Piece Rate Basis.

On July 16, 2015, the Washington Supreme Court issued a ruling interpreting the statutory requirement for agricultural employees to receive paid breaks as applied to those paid solely on a piece rate basis.

By law, employees in Washington are entitled to short rest breaks “on the employer’s time.” In the case of hourly employees, that means employers must pay the employees their regular hourly rate during these breaks. In other words, hourly employees remain “on the clock” during these breaks.

Piece rate employees, however, are paid at a rate tied directly to their production, not time or hours worked. Thus, as the Court observed in Demetrio v. Sakuma Bros. Farms, Inc., 2015 Wash. LEXIS 807 (Wash. July 16, 2015), “the clock stops during periods of inactivity however brief.”

In Demetrio, seasonal agricultural workers employed to harvest crops on a berry farm in Skagit County brought an action against the farm for unpaid wages, specifically their rest breaks. While this action was in Federal District Court, and the parties settled without admission of wrongdoing, Washington’s Supreme Court was asked to answer two certified questions:

Whether a Washington agricultural employer has an obligation under WAC 296-131-020(2) and/or the Washington Minimum Wage Act to separately pay piece rate workers for the rest breaks to which they are entitled; and if so, how must Washington agricultural employers calculate the rate of pay for the rest break time to which piece rate workers are entitled?

WAC 296-131-020(2) applies to agricultural employees, and provides:

Every employee shall be allowed a rest period of at least ten minutes, on the employer’s time, in each four-hour period of employment. For purposes of computing the minimum wage on a piecework basis, the time allotted an employee for rest periods shall be included in the number of hours for which the minimum wage must be paid.

In its analysis, the Court examined the language “on the employer’s time” specifically. In doing so, it held that the only reasonable interpretation is that “on the employer’s time” requires pay separate from the piece rate. Since the piece rate is earned only while the employee is working (i.e., no pay accrues during rest breaks) the employees’ rest breaks cannot reasonably be said to be “on the employer’s time” if paid by the piece. As such, piece rate employees were effectively financing their own breaks, in that they were forfeiting pay in order to take them. The Court further concluded that the only way to give meaning to the phrase “on the employer’s time” in this context is to require compensation separate from the piece rate for rest breaks.

In answering in the affirmative to the first certified question, the Court then turned to the second question: how is this separate rate of pay calculated for these piece rate employees?

Based on previous case law and policy behind payment during rest breaks, the Court rejected the notion that this separate pay should be based solely on minimum wage. It reasoned that because all hours worked “on the employer’s time” are treated equally, the WAC entitles pieceworkers to their regular rate of pay for rest break time. This regular rate of pay is calculated by tallying the total piece rate earnings and dividing those earnings by the hours the pieceworkers worked, excluding the time spent resting. This formula yields the average rate of pay pieceworkers earn during active production—their regular rate. It also prevents rest break time from being double counted. This method of calculation is devised to prevent employers from paying rest breaks at a lower rate than production, thus providing an incentive to employees to miss breaks.

While this analysis applies directly to agricultural piece rate workers, this ruling is a reminder that prudent employers may wish to examine their operations closely for practices or policies that incentivize employees to ignore or disregard rest breaks or other benefits provided by statute to employees, and the importance of staying up to date on the latest in labor laws and regulations.

This opinion is the latest of developments in the employment law field, and comes on the heels of a number of wage and hour updates. In the past year, increased minimum wage laws, a trend towards mandatory paid sick leave, and the Department of Labor’s proposed rule updating FLSA coverage for employees exempt from overtime are just a few of the many issues employers should be aware of. The lawyers at Ledger Square Law are dedicated to protecting your interests. Give us a call to discuss your wage and hour issues before they result in protracted and expensive litigation.

Seattle’s minimum wage ordinance goes into effect on April 1, 2015


Minimum Wage

The Seattle Office of Labor Standards (SOLS), a division of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights, released proposed administrative rules last month to implement the city’s $15 minimum wage.

Seattle’s minimum wage ordinance goes into effect on April 1, 2015. On that date, all employers, regardless of size, must pay employees working in Seattle $11 per hour. Employers with 501 or more employees must pay a “minimum wage” of $11 per hour, while employers with 500 or fewer employees must pay a “minimum compensation” rate of $11 per hour.

Number of employees irrelevant

The number of employees is not location-specific; this means that even employees who work outside Seattle count. Employees are covered if they work in Seattle for more than two hours in two consecutive weeks. Covered employees must be paid the minimum wage or minimum compensation rate for all hours worked in Seattle during the two-week period.

Employers have the discretion to determine how the two-week period will run (e.g., by pay period or calendar period), but the method must be applied consistently. If employers meet the ordinance’s notice requirements and provide employees a reasonable system for tracking time, they may delegate the responsibility for tracking time worked in Seattle to employees.

Differences between “minimum wage” vs. “minimum compensation”

The definition of “minimum wage” includes wages, commissions, piece-rate pay, and bonuses received by employees. On the other hand, “minimum compensation” includes wages, tips, and money paid by an employer toward employees’ medical benefits. Thus, small employers are able to count tips and medical benefit payments to help them reach the $11 minimum compensation rate. The minimum wage and minimum compensation requirements will increase over time and on different schedules based on employer size and contributions toward employee medical benefits until the $15 minimum wage takes effect on January 1, 2018, for large employers and January 1, 2021, for small employers.

Must maintain proper payroll records

The proposed rules require employers to retain covered employees’ payroll records for three years. Payroll records include, among other things, (1) the time of day and the day of the week on which an employee’s workweek begins, (2) hours worked each workday, (3) hours worked’ each workweek, and (4) information regarding medical benefits and tips that demonstrates that an employee was paid the minimum wage or minimum compensation rate.

The ordinance requires employers to notify employees of their rights under the law, including (1) the right to be paid minimum wage or minimum compensation, (2) protection from retaliation, and (3) the right to file a complaint for violations. Notice must be given in English, Spanish, and “any-other language commonly spoken by employees at [a] particular workplace.”

Implementing Seattle’s minimum wage

Here are some tips to help you comply with Seattle’s minimum wage ordinance:

  • Review the ordinance and the administrative rules to ensure compliance.
  • Determine your total number of employees, including joint employees and employees who work outside Seattle.
  • Notify employees of their rights under the ordinance in English, Spanish, and any other applicable language.

Make sure you have evidence that you provided notice.

  • If you have employees who work in Seattle periodically, notify them of their rights under the ordinance, and develop a reasonable system for tracking each employee’s time worked in Seattle.
  • Review your payroll and record-keeping procedures to ensure compliance with the ordinance and its regulations.
  • Consider consulting legal counsel to ensure compliance with the ordinance.

The ordinance takes effect on April 1!