Construction Law Blog
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As part of Washington’s Initiative 1433, approved by voters in November 2016, Washington’s minimum wage will be increased to $13.50 by January 1, 2020. At the time the initiative was approved, Washington’s minimum wage was $9.47 per hour and increased with the cost of living. It was the eighth-highest minimum wage in the country. The federal minimum wage was $7.25. In 2014, Seattle became the first major city to approve a $15 minimum wage.
Initiative 1433 increased the state's minimum wage to $13.50 by January 1, 2020. Thereafter, the minimum wage will be increased with the cost of living. Washington’s minimum wage is set to increase as follows:
On July 6, 2017, Washington’s Governor Jay Inslee signed a new family and medical leave law that will offer paid leave to employees in our state to care for a newborn or newly adopted child or for a serious health condition. Washington’s new law is one of the most generous paid family leave programs in the United States. It was a bipartisan measure, passing the House on a 65-29 vote shortly after the Senate passed it on a 37-12 vote. It is titled the Washington Family Leave Act (WFLA). Contributions to the program will begin in 2019 and benefits will be available to Washington employees starting January 1, 2020.
This paid leave program brings Washington into the small group of states offering paid leave in the United States, which severely lags behind the world in national paid parental leave. According to the WORLD Policy Analysis Center at UCLA, out of 193 countries in the United Nations, only a few do not have a national paid parental leave law: New Guinea, Suriname, a few South Pacific island nations, and the United States.
WSDOT Seeks Retraction of Waiver Excluding Non-Minority Woman-Owned Businesses from Participation Goals
If you are a regular reader of our blog, you will likely recognize that our firm has been actively involved and concerned with the results of Washington State Department of Transportation’s (“WSDOT”) Disparity Study, which impacts both Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (“DBE”) and general contractors who bid on federally-funded projects with DBE goals. On June 1, 2017, WSDOT implemented a “waiver”, which excluded Caucasian women-owned firms (“WBEs”) from qualifying for Condition of Award DBE Goals on federally-funded projects. This drastic action was the result of WSDOT’s highly criticized 2012 Disparity Study conducted by BBC Research & Consulting of Denver, Colorado, which concluded non-minority women-owned firms do not face “substantial disparities” in the federally-funded transportation contracting market.
The City of Seattle’s City Purchasing & Contracting Services recently revised its General Special Provisions for City construction contracts to add new “Acceptable Worksite” language. The City indicates that the purpose of the provisions is “to ensure that City construction worksites are respectful and appropriate, including prohibiting bullying, hazing, and other similar behaviors.” An “Acceptable Worksite” is defined as a worksite “that is appropriate, productive, and safe work for all workers” and “free from behaviors that may impair production, and/or undermine the integrity of the work conditions including but not limited to job performance, safety, productivity, or efficiency of workers.”
Although we live in a politically-divided nation, there is one issue on which there seems widespread agreement: our country requires a massive upgrade to its infrastructure. Rundown airports, crumbling highways, obsolete ports, and dangerous bridges are now endemic across the United States. By contrast, Asian airports and elegant European bridges and rails show that our country needs an upgrade, the cost of which will be enormous.
Blog: Congress Strikes a Blow to President Obama’s “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” Executive Order 13673
On October 25, 2016, the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council (FAR Council) and the U.S. Department of Labor implemented former President Obama’s Executive Order 13673: “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” rules. The rules became effective on October 25, 2016 and fundamentally altered the way federal contractors and subcontractors will need to handle and resolve employment and labor claims, as well as compliance issues involving their entire workforce. The final rules can also result in otherwise-capable companies being “blacklisted” and effectively barred from federal contracts and subcontracts based on labor and employment law violations related or unrelated to prior or current federal contract performance. The centerpiece of the new regulatory scheme was the new disclosure and responsibility requirements. Contractors and subcontractors needed to disclose all “labor law decisions” that they had during the three years (prior to bid submission) as part of the process of applying for a new federal contract or subcontract. If a contractor or subcontractor has too many “labor law decisions” to report or the few it has are too severe, pervasive, repeated, or willful in the eyes of the government “experts,” the company could be deemed “non-responsible” and denied a contract.
In a public works dispute in Massachusetts, a Massachusetts Court judge ruled that a general contractor could not recover any of its over $14 million claim against a public owner because it had violated its contract with the Owner by certifying that it had paid its subcontractors in full and on time when in fact it had not.[i] The case involves a contract dispute arising from a state and federally-funded project to design and construct a fiber optic network in western Massachusetts. The Owner was a state development agency established and organized to receive both state and federal funding to build a 1,200–mile fiber optic network known as MassBroadband123 in Western Massachusetts (the Project). Of that amount, $45.4 million was awarded pursuant to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). One of the stated goals of ARRA was (as its title suggests) to create jobs in the wake of the 2008 recession and to provide a direct financial boost to those impacted by the economic crisis. In the context of the instant case, that meant that, if there were to be subcontractors on the job providing labor and materials, they needed to be paid on a timely basis in keeping with the statutory purpose of stimulating the economy.
The Defend Trade Secret Act of 2016 (DTSA) was signed into law on May 11, 2016, and became effective immediately. The DTSA allows an owner of a trade secret to sue in federal court for trade secret misappropriation. Previously, only state law governed civil misappropriation of trade secrets. While the DTSA largely mirrors the current state of the law under the Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA), adopted by 48 states, including Washington, there are some additions found in the new law.
Waiving Workers’ Compensation Immunity for Indemnity: Demystifying a Common and Scary-Looking Contract Term
Parties to a construction contract are often skeptical of terms in bold fonts, capital letters, or underlining, and especially terms requiring separate signatures or initials. A natural assumption is that such terms must be harmful if they require such emphasis. This concern is further heightened when the term involves complex areas of law, or waivers of rights that the party may not fully understand. In such cases, a little knowledge can go a long way.
On May 18, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced the new federal overtime rule under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). As a result of the new rule, over 4,000,000 workers will become entitled to overtime pay when they work extra hours. The rule becomes effective December 1, 2016.
The rule focuses primarily on updating the salary and compensation levels needed for Executive, Administrative, and Professional workers to be exempt, and changes the salary level that must be met before an employee can be exempt from overtime. The new minimum salary threshold will increase to $913 per week, $47,476 annually, and will apply to nearly all employees — an employee paid less than this threshold amount will be guaranteed overtime pay. The new federal threshold of $47,476 annually is more than double the current threshold of $23,660 annually ($455 a week), which has been in place since 2004.