Corrections? officers ?filed ?a ?class? action? alleging that routine delays in payment of overtime wages violated Washington wage and hour laws.? ?In accordance with a collective bargaining agreement, Thurston County paid regular wages in a timely manner,?? but?? delayed?? paying?? overtime?? wages beyond ?the ?time ?allowed ?by ?WAC 296-128-035. The trial court dismissed without prejudice for failure to file a tort claim. ?The Court of Appeals affirmed on grounds never briefed, holding that delay in payment fails to state a claim under Washington?s wage and hour laws. ?The Court of Appeals held that these laws allow for damages only when an employer has paid no compensation.
The Washington Supreme Court disagreed. ?It held that ?delayed payment of wages beyond the time frame set forth in former WAC 296-128-035 gives rise to employer liability under the WRA (49.52) but only where such delay is willful, and here it was not.? ?While the Court concluded that delay of wages does not give rise to a cause of action under the Minimum Wage Act (RCW 49.46), the Court held that the Wage Rebate Act (49.52) ?does not provide for a lessening of liability based on wages eventually paid but instead assigns exemplary damages based upon the employer?s willful withholding.? ?RCW 49.52.070.?? ?The Court went on to state, ?our holding does not foreclose the availability of damages under the WRA where an employer eventually pays its employees but a court determines that the employer withheld the wages willfully and with the intent to deprive the employees of the wages due.? ?The Court reiterated?and extended its holding in Wingert v. Yellow Freight Sys., Inc., 146 Wn.2d 841 (2002), that administrative rules carry the force of law: ?Violations of the rule may trigger the remedies available under the WRA even though the WRA is not listed among the statutory authority for WAC 296-128-035.? ?In addition, the Court held that?? ?RCW 49.48?? ?only?? ?applies?? ?to?? ?end-of- employment? withholding of wages, which was not the case here.?? As a result of this lawsuit, WAC 296-128-035 was substantially revised to provide much needed clarity.? ?Champagne v. Thurston County, 163 Wn.2d 69, 178 P.3d 936 (2008) (Fairhurst writing for the majority joined by Alexander, Owens, J. Johnson, Sanders, Chambers, and Bridge sitting Pro Tem; separate concurrence by Madsen, joined by C. Johnson).