Upcoming Conference | 2019 Re-Wire Policy Conference, Dec 10, 2019 Register

New poll finds majority of likely Washington voters support guaranteed overtime pay policy

A new poll from Patinkin Research Strategies shows a majority of likely November 2020 Washington voters support a guaranteed overtime pay policy. The poll, which was commissioned by Civic Ventures, aims to evaluate voter opinion on the Department of Labor and Industries’ (L&I) recent draft changes to Washington’s overtime rules.

In October 2018, L&I circulated an initial pre-draft version of changes to the state’s overtime rules, and released the draft rule at the beginning of June.

Washington hasn’t updated its overtime rules since 1976, and the rules are considered, by many, to be out of date. Washington employers currently use the federal threshold, where employees may be exempt from overtime protections if they make more than $24,000 per year. The proposed rule change would increase the number of Washington workers eligible to receive overtime pay by raising the overtime exemption to 2.5 times the minimum wage, or about $80,000 per year by the time the policy is fully phased in (2026).

According to Civic Ventures, this rule change will return overtime protections to about 45% of Washington’s salaried workers. The change will have the most significant impacts on women, Millennial and Generation Y workers, and those in the workforce with little or no college education.

Poll results show that 67% of those surveyed support a guaranteed overtime pay policy, with 19% in opposition and 14% undecided.

Nearly every subgroup in the poll viewed the policy as favorable. There were, however, differences in support based on gender, age, and education. Women (+44) were less likely to support the rule than men (+51), those with no college (+60) were more supportive than those who had attended college (+33), and respondents under the age of 50 (+50) were slightly more likely to support the rule than those over 50 (+45) and over 70 (+44).

Support for the policy also varied by political party. Of those surveyed, 77% of Democrats (with 12% opposed) and 75% of Independents (with 13% opposed) supported the policy; 45% Republicans were in support (with 36% opposed).

Jack Sorensen, a spokesperson for the coalition working to support the proposed rule change, which includes Civic Ventures and Working Washington, says the results indicate the popularity of L&I’s proposal, and likely point to why big business has not come out in opposition to the draft rule changes.

“Since Gov. Inslee’s Department of Labor and Industries released its plan to restore overtime protections for Washington workers, we’ve been a bit puzzled that we haven’t seen the usual cast of big corporate lobbying groups putting in much effort to oppose it. After seeing these polling results, that absence makes a little more sense now. We can only assume that they’ve seen the same numbers we have – that this plan is overwhelmingly popular among Washington voters, and it’s popular to support it.”

While there has been a lack of widespread public opposition, feedback on the proposed rule has not all been supportive. Following the June 5 announcement of the draft rule, Association of Washington Business President Kris Johnson stated,

“The current rule needed updating, but this proposal simply goes too far and risks a variety of unintended consequences including a reduction in program offerings at nonprofits, fewer opportunities for employees to advance into salaried management positions, and reclassification of employees from salaried to hourly positions. We encourage state officials to slow down, reconsider the number and match the federal requirements, which are in the process of being updated. This will prevent a patchwork of regulations in different states and minimize the unintended consequences, both for employers and employees.”

L&I will hold a meeting this afternoon to hear public comments on the draft overtime rules, and will hold additional meetings throughout the rest of the summer.

Editor’s note: The original article listed $70,000 per year as the 2026 figure for overtime exemptions.