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Three Things to Know About the Proposed Wage Lien Bill

February 7, 2020

Without doubt, every worker deserves to receive the pay to which he or she is entitled, but based on data from the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I), wage disputes are relatively uncommon and there is a system in place to handle the few cases that do arise.

Is This a Crisis?

In 2018, according to L&I, wage claims filed in the construction industry totaled $983,948. Wages in residential construction alone in 2018 were approximately $3 billion. Wage claims accounted for .0003% of the wages paid in residential construction.

Also, according to L&I, the rate of wage claims in construction is five claims per 1,000 workers or ½ of 1%. 99.5 % of workers have no problems being paid.
According to L&I, in 2018, there were 831 wage claims in construction, and the average wage claim assessment was $1,184.

What Would the Bill SB 6053 do?

1) If a worker claims that they are owed unpaid wages, under this new law, they would be able to file a lien against your real and/or personal property in Washington State as well as the real and/or personal property of your business partners, board, family members, and heirs.
2) A wage lien claim must be filed within a period of two years from when the wages were first due. For wage liens on real property that have been commenced in any court, a notice must be filed within eight months in the county auditor’s office where the property is located. For personal property, including vehicles or vessels, the notice must be filed with the Department of Licensing (DOL).
3) A wage lien is extinguished if an action is not brought within eight months of recording the wage lien or if the required notice to the county auditor’s office was not filed within eight months. A wage lien is also extinguished if the wage claim is dismissed with prejudice or upon payment and acceptance.
4) The bill does allow for the remedy of frivolous claims. In the event the employer can prove that the employee willfully exaggerated the lien, the lien will be discharged and the contractor or owner can recover the costs and reasonable attorney fees.

The bottom line is that the state already funds L&I’s Wage & Hour Division, created specifically so workers could address any wage issues quickly, with the force of the government behind them, and without having to hire an attorney.

If this issue is really such a crisis, perhaps the Legislature should review the L&I Wage and Hour Division and determine if there are barriers in the system that discourage workers from filing wage claims or other impediments to the fair recovery of wages before adopting a new and unprecedented system.

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