Fair Work News — April 2024

Bosses back down when workers have access to legal resources:

Vineyard workers in Sunnyside, WA were injured and needed to take time off to recover, only to find their entire crew laid off shortly after. Our clients sought, and were granted, PFML for the injury, but the employer appealed, claiming they had walked off the job.  If the employer had been successful, our clients would have lost the right to their paid leave, and might have had to pay back any amounts they already received. After additional documentation and a notice of appearance entered by our legal team, the employer backed down. 

No small thing:

A nanny client recently won her small claims trial and was paid by her ex-employer! This means she won’t have to fight an appeal or figure out how to collect her money. And because empowered workers empower others, she hopes to inspire other nannies to exercise their rights, and has been supporting another Nanny Collective member to prepare for her trial.


Skewering some stolen wages:

Two food truck workers from MoMo’s Kebab in Seattle came to us when their bosses were stealing tips and underpaying them. After our legal team backed them up in some pitched negotiations, the workers won back wages. Checks in hands and hopefully lessons learned by some food truck bosses.  


Are your rights at work being violated?

If you’re interested in a training, one on one information session, or a free consultation with our lawyers, visit our office in Seattle or Yakima, email help@fairworkcenter.org, or fill out this form.

University of Washington Community Survey: Understanding the Initial Impact of Seattle’s PayUp Ordinance

Researchers with UW’s Information School and the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies are studying the response to the PayUp Ordinance. 

PayUp and where we’re at now:

In 2022, the City Council passed the App-Based Worker Minimum Payment Ordinance (also called the “PayUp” Ordinance) requiring the following:

  • Minimum payment for time worker and miles traveled for each service
    • Minimum-per-minute amount of $0.44 and minimum per-mile amount of $0.74
    • Minimum per-offer amount of $5
  • Transparency: upfront disclosures of offer information and payment
  • Flexibility: Right to access app-based platform without limitations (excluding health and safety), no penalties for limiting availability or refusing orders, and the right to cancel an order with cause.  

These changes went into effect on January 13th, 2024. App-based corporations have used this as an opportunity to price-gouge customers both in and out of Seattle with outrageous retaliatory fees, and is lobbying the city council to repeal the law. 

The University of Washington is asking app-based workers, consumers, and business owners and operators to take our survey:

The Assurecare Workers’ Story

Ending Racist And Sexist Exclusion Of Caregivers From Critical Labor Standards In Washington

We were recently featured as guest contributors on Impact Fund’s blog to talk about our recent case with Assurecare workers.

On March 24, 2023, the Fair Work Center helped six workers file a lawsuit against Assurecare for failure to pay their full wages for all hours worked, missed rest breaks and meal periods, and significant overtime premiums.

Read more about the case and about our fight to end the racist and sexist exclusion of caregivers from critical labor standards in Washington.



Seattle App-Based Worker Minimum Payment Ordinance In Effect

Subminimum wages for Seattle’s gig workers are OVER.

As of January 13, 2024, the PayUp App-Based Worker Minimum Payment Ordinance finally goes into effect – the law that thousands of gig workers fought for that guarantees a minimum pay floor and better flexibility and transparency standards. 

Fed up workers spoke up, fought back, and won these rights.

Now, we need to educate other workers about our new rights and band together to ensure we can enforce our rights. Here are some FAQs about the new law that gig workers need to know.


Want to learn more about the law and make sure it’s working for you? Below are some great ways to learn about the new law and to make sure it has teeth:

  • Read the details of the law at the Office of Labor Standards.
  • Come to our PayUp Ordinance Know Your Rights meeting on February 15 to get your questions answered and meet the workers who won the #PayUp campaign. We’ll dive into the details of the law and you’ll also have the chance to talk one-on-one with our legal team about your pay.
  • Reach out to our team anytime at help@fairworkcenter.org

What can you do to keep up the momentum?

  • TAKE. SCREENSHOTS. We have reason to believe the apps won’t follow the law. They’ve tried to weasel out of paying workers’ hazard pay and Paid Sick & Safe Time before. The key to finding out if they’re breaking this law too? If you are a worker or a customer on apps like GrubHub, Instacart, and Amazon Flex, take lots of screenshots. The best way to hold the apps accountable is to keep careful records of what they do or don’t tell you – and then bring that to us at a meeting if you want help finding out whether we’ve got a case on our hands.
  • Contribute to our work so we have the resources we need to reach out to more workers, and go to bat for our rights.


Kim’s story — “My boss said I was faking it.”

Kim was experiencing a sudden health crisis. She badly needed time away from her job at a call center in Federal Way to recover—but when she requested the time off, her boss turned her down. 

She tried negotiating on her own again…and again…and again. Each time, she was told to report to work, or risk losing her job. Kim knew something was fishy, but wasn’t sure what her options were. So she got in touch with Fair Work Center. 

Our legal clinic supported Kim in negotiating paid time off right away to start her recovery. But it was clear she’d need at least a month off—and she didn’t have the sick leave hours built up to cover that time. We helped her through the complicated and lengthy process to secure a longer period of leave under the Paid Family Medical Leave program. As Kim started to feel better, she realized it wouldn’t be healthy to return to work under her hostile supervisor, who had been so unsupportive throughout her crisis, and so we helped her negotiate severance pay to tide her over. 

>>> Fair Work Center offers free legal consultations—and we count on your support to make that possible. Can you chip in $20 this #GivingTuesday to fund ongoing access to free legal help for immigrant workers like Kim? <<< 

Here’s what Kim has to say about her case: 

“It was unbelievable. I followed every company rule: I marked the time on my calendar, I used their software correctly to request sick time, and they still denied my request four different times. They were saying I was faking it. They pushed me to keep coming in, even though I was barely able to work. They thought I was helpless. 

I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I was in a really bad situation. And if I didn’t report to work, I could get fired. I didn’t know what to do. I knew I needed a lawyer, but I was worried about the cost–I don’t have much money to begin with. 

Fair Work Center stepped in and helped me solve this issue. They called my boss and made sure I got time off right away. Then they told me about the Paid Family Medical Leave program. I’d never heard of it. I had no idea it was an option. The process was long and complicated, and my employer didn’t want to cooperate. So it was good to have somebody who knew the process keeping an eye on things to make sure the company followed the rules. 

I’m overwhelmed with happiness now that my situation is resolved. But I know so many other people also can’t get time off when they need it. My recommendation? Call Fair Work Center sooner rather than later.”

>>> This Giving Tuesday, can you pitch in $20? Your gift means we can continue to offer free legal consultations and support workers as they stand up for their rights. <<<

Danielle Alvarado testimony before the U.S. House Select Committee on Economic Disparity & Fairness in Growth

Testimony of Danielle Alvarado, Executive Director of Working Washington & Fair Work Center, before the U.S. House Select Committee on Economic Disparity & Fairness in Growth

AUGUST 9, 2022

“Good afternoon Chairman Himes, Ranking Member Steil, and members of the Committee. My name is Danielle Alvarado. I’m the Executive Director of Working Washington & Fair Work Center, a statewide organization of low-wage and historically excluded workers. We have led the campaigns to pass and enforce many of the transformative victories mentioned today.

Seattle’s economy is strong, not in spite of our labor standards, but because of them—and our successes here provide a roadmap for the rest of the country.

There are four key lessons that I want to highlight:


The success of the Fight for Fifteen meant 1 in 4 Seattle workers got a raise — making it one of the largest economic boosts for workers in recent American history. That’s more than 100,000 people with more in their pockets to pay bills, save up for emergencies, and spend in the local economy.

Today, our Seattle minimum wage is $10 higher than the federal, and the movement that started here has spread nationwide. Over the past decade, we’ve increased wages by more than $150 billion dollars for 26 million workers across the country.

Our victories in Washington aren’t just about what we’ve won, but who has benefitted. We have taken on some of the most deeply entrenched and racist labor standards exclusions in federal law. In Seattle, nannies and house cleaners passed the first municipal Domestic Workers Bill of Rights to establish basic protections like minimum pay and breaks. And this year, for the first time, Washington farmworkers are earning overtime. These victories are chipping away at an economic system that for too long has trapped workers of color at the bottom.


The power of local leadership is clear in moments of crisis. As the pandemic hit frontline workers hard, we won first-in-the-nation emergency hazard pay and sick time rights for gig workers. The City also moved swiftly to establish a relief fund providing additional help to nearly 10,000 residents. These emergency measures were critical to keeping Seattle workers safe, healthy, and able to make ends meet.

And these crisis responses often pave the way for long term solutions. That’s why we continued to organize, which led the City Council to unanimously pass PayUp, our permanent gig worker ordinance, this May.


We know our rights are only real when they’re enforced—and when that doesn’t happen, it’s people of color, Black workers, immigrants, and other historically excluded groups who are more likely to experience labor standards violations.
That’s why Seattle established the Office of Labor Standards (OLS) to build on the work of our state agency. To date, OLS has returned nearly 25 million dollars to over 40,000 Seattle workers. OLS enforces strategically. By focusing resources on priority issues and industries, it is able to recover more money for workers, close the enforcement gap, and hold bad actor employers accountable.

Most critically, OLS has invested millions of dollars in partnerships with grassroots organizations like ours. When we fund community based outreach and enforcement, we break down the isolation and fear of retaliation that keeps so many workers – particularly the most marginalized –  from coming forward. By combining community partnerships and strategic enforcement, we are able to ensure that our progressive labor standards really mean something to the workers who fought for them and need them most.


We are proud of our partners in local government. And, it’s critical to understand that the progress we’ve made in Washington would not have happened without the leadership of workers.

Time and time again, we’ve seen that workers know better than anyone what needs to change about our economy. To make sure worker voices remain front-and-center, we’ve created strong coalitions of community organizations, labor unions, and worker centers like ours. By coming together to win new protections at the state and local level, we’re responding to the modern economy by building an inclusive labor movement that leaves nobody behind.


While we’ve achieved powerful victories in the Seattle area, there is still more work to be done. Washington has no state income tax, which means too many workers struggle while the rich get richer.

There’s an urgent need to strengthen federal and state labor standards and bring them up to speed with Seattle’s gains. Our safety net has unacceptable shortcomings: we need universal access to unemployment, paid leave, and robust health and safety protections that reflect the realities of climate change. We need deeper investments in labor standards enforcement to make sure rights on paper are real in every corner of the state.

No matter where we live, we all deserve, fairly paid, dignified work. Seattle’s workers have shown it can be done. We are ready to continue leading the way.”

MEDIA RELEASE: Ezell’s worker files lawsuit over sexual harassment


Lawsuit underscores widespread crisis of sexual harassment and discrimination in the restaurant industry

A worker at Ezell’s Famous Chicken has filed a lawsuit in King County Superior Court alleging she was sexually harassed and assaulted while at work.

For two years, the worker’s supervisor, the General Manager of the Bellevue Ezell’s Famous Chicken location, engaged in an escalating pattern of harassment, assault, and intimidation. Meanwhile, corporate management at Ezell’s failed to provide sexual harassment policies or training in Spanish or any way for this worker to report the General Manager’s sexual harassment to upper management at the company without fearing for her job.

The full court filing is available here. Specific allegations raised in the complaint include:

  • Sexual harrassment and assault: the store’s General Manager engaged in an escalating pattern of unwanted sexual behavior, including many instances where he made sexually-explicit and derogatory verbal comments to her, touched the worker’s body without her permission, and an occasion where he groped her body while after trapping her in a walk-in freezer.

  • Corporate responsibility: Management at this Ezell’s location provided no sexual harassment training in Spanish, nor did they offer any procedure for workers to bring forth complaints about sexual harassment or other mistreatment


The worker is represented by attorneys at Fair Work Center and Frank Freed Subit & Thomas, LLP.


Contact Jeffrey Gustaveson: jeffrey@fairworkcenter.org

Reglas de salud & seguridad durante las olas de calor

Las temperaturas están llegando a las tres cifras en Yakima, Spokane, y Walla Walla, a los 90s en Seattle y el resto del estado.

Así que es un buen tiempo para revisar las reglas de calor extremo que comienzan a notarse cuando la temperatura llega a 89º+ por más de 15 minutos en una hora.

Responsabilidades de empleadores durante las olas de calor: 

🥤Proveer una quarta de galón de agua para cada trabajador cada hora

🧊 Mantener el agua fría y accesible

🕶️  Proveer áreas con sombra para descansar

🧘 Descansos mandatorios para enfriarse

Más detalles aquí del Departamento de Labor e Industrias de WA. 

Health & safety rules for WA workers during extreme heat

[Leer esta información en español]

Temperatures are reaching triple digits in Yakima, Spokane, and Walla Walla, and the 90s in Seattle & the rest of the state. 

So it’s a good time to brush up on the outdoor heat exposure rules that kick in for workers exposed to 89º+ temperatures for more than 15 minutes in a 60-minute period. 

Key employer responsibilities during excessive heat:

🥤Provide 1 quart of water per worker per hour

🧊 Keep water cool & accessible

🕶️ Provide shade

🧘Mandatory cool-down rest periods

More details here from the WA Department of Labor & Industries.

Meet Gabo Gutierrez