Washington state has the highest state minimum wage in the nation, but a new bill being considered by lawmakers would allow some employers to pay a lower “training wage” to new employees for a certain period of time.
The measure heard before the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee on Wednesday would establish a special training certificate for employers with fewer than 50 employees. The certificate would allow them to pay new employees 75 percent of the minimum wage during a training period to last no longer than 680 hours. Washington state’s minimum wage increased by 15 cents this month to $9.19 per hour.
Employers would only be able to use the certificate once per employee, and training wages could not be used on more than 10 percent of the employer’s workforce.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Janea Holmquist Newbry, a Republican from Moses Lake who is chairwoman of the committee. A companion bill in the House had a public hearing on Tuesday.
Currently, exceptions to the minimum wage law already exist with employers being able to pay less than the minimum wage to certain groups, like student workers at schools that they attend, and individuals impaired by age or physical or mental deficiency or injury. State law also allows a training wage for 85 percent of minimum wage for 14 and 15 year olds.
Many states, including Idaho, follow the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, either because they’ve tied their minimum wage to that threshold or because the state-enacted minimum is lower than that.
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