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Seattle To Expand City Office Of Labor Standards To Keep Up With Demand

Supporters of secure scheduling  march in downtown Seattle in April.
Working Washington
Supporters of secure scheduling march in downtown Seattle in April.

The agency in charge of enforcing Seattle's citywide labor laws is being expanded.

The Office of Labor Standards will be getting a boost in next year's city budget to more than double its staff. The office investigates violations of city labor ordinances and educates workers and businesses about complying with the relatively new laws.

When the labor standards office was created in April 2015, it oversaw four laws: Paid sick leave, fair chance employment, wage theft and the $15 minimum wage ordinance.  By June 2015, it was handling fewer than 60 open investigations.

Now the office has an average of 160 open investigations at any given time. With this fall's passage of secure scheduling and an initiative to protect hotel workers, the agency will be in charge of enforcing six laws total.

Labor standards office director Dylan Orr said when he took the position, it was difficult to predict just how busy the office would be.

"We receive questions on a daily – many times hourly basis – from businesses asking very, very specific questions about how laws apply to their business," Orr said. "And workers are complaining, and we have a very high case load."

With more funding from the city, the office will also be able to initiate investigations in addition to acting on worker complaints. 

The city budget committee voted Wednesday to increase funding to the office. The whole council is expected to officially approve the budget on Monday.

A Seattle native and former KNKX intern, Simone Alicea spent four years as a producer and reporter at KNKX. She earned her Bachelor's of Journalism from Northwestern University and covered breaking news for the Chicago Sun-Times. During her undergraduate career, she spent time in Cape Town, South Africa, covering metro news for the Cape Times.