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New Non-Profit In Washington State Aims To Help Workers Sue Over Wage Violations

Toby Scott

Now that Seattle’s $15 minimum wage is being phased in, the mayor is proposing tougher rules to enforce it, including allowing workers to sue employers for violations and receive damages if they win.

A new non-profit legal group in Seattle  called the Washington Wage Claim Project aims to help workers do that. 

David Mark is the executive director and a long-time labor lawyer. He says the group of three attorneys started the project in September in conjunction with Columbia Legal Services and has so far filed about 15 cases on behalf of low-wage workers.

"Many of our clients are immigrant construction workers who often do their work and just don’t get paid," Mark said.

The Wage Claim Project doesn’t charge a fee to workers. Instead, Mark says he and the other attorneys get paid by the employer if they win.

He says big law firms often aren’t willing to represent individual workers in these kinds of wage violation lawsuits, so one of his goals is to train other lawyers to represent these clients.

"They’re good cases, these workers have rights and their rights are being violated," Mark said.

He and the other attorneys say they’ll sue employers for things such as unpaid overtime, unpaid minimum wage and denial of meal and rest breaks.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.