Washington Supreme Court Says Underpaid Workers are Entitled to Double Their Withheld Wages, Plus Interest

Employees in Washington enjoy some of the strongest wage and hour protections in the country. An employer that willfully fails to pay agreed or required (e.g., minimum wage) compensation is liable to its employee for double the unpaid amount. The same rule applies to improper payroll deductions.

In Hill v. Garda CL Northwest, Inc., the Washington Supreme Court held that employees who establish a wage violation are also entitled to interest on the unpaid wages. In its August 23, 2018 opinion, the Court rejected the employer’s argument that an award of both double damages and prejudgment interest is an impermissible double recovery. The Court explained that the statute allowing for two times the wages withheld, and the statute allowing interest, serve different purposes. The former is meant to “punish and deter” employers who underpay their workers. The latter is designed to repay the employee for the “use value” of the money he or she did not receive. Thus, both forms of relief are recoverable.