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Audit released on how Seattle enforces minimum wage laws

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SEATTLE -- A new report is taking a look at how minimum wage laws are enforced in Seattle. The City Auditor focused on the effectiveness of Seattle’s Office of Labor Standards (OLS) and how they’re protecting and educating both employers and employees. 

The audit is mostly positive and the good news it shares is that overall, the OLS is doing a good job at enforcing minimum wage laws. The bad news is there are employers who aren’t following labor laws, whether it’s intentional or not. 

The point of the audit is to make sure the OLS is doing its job well, and the consensus is they are, but there are some improvements that could be made.

For example, while the data shows the food and alcohol industry had a significantly higher number of violations and settlements in 2017 and 2018, the city auditor says that it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the industry that needs the most focus. There could be industries and employees that are under-represented in the data because they aren’t reporting wage violations.

Essentially, the audit is meant to help focus resources on the people who really need them. 

"We’re looking at where do we think we could deploy our resources and get our biggest bang for our buck, what industries do we think there are a lot of problems?" said Seattle City Auditor David Jones. "And also complicating this, in a lot of the minimum wage we’re talking about people with jobs where they’re not making a lot of money, many people-English might not be their first language. They may not know the rules, and they’re often sometimes intimidated and don’t know who to speak to and whether or not they should. So I think it behooves us, the city, to make sure we’re aware of where those conditions are present so that we can make sure things are going well."

Jones says the best advice for employers and employees is to know your rights and know what the wage laws are, especially as they continue to evolve.

If you think your employer might not be paying you what they’re required to pay by law, you can go to whatsmywage.org. It’s a simple tool set up by the Fair Work Center to help people understand how minimum wage law applies to them.

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