Throughout the last few years, the minimum wage topic has really taken center stage across the country, prompting some states to pass legislation to increase their minimum wage over time. Individual cities even hopped on board and increased the minimum wage rate for their workers, including SeaTac airport in Seattle, Washington. In 2013, city voters approved a $15 minimum wage increase for SeaTac workers. However, since the new wage was approved, thousands of workers stepped forward and claimed that SeaTac never actually increased their wages.
In response to the withheld wages, workers took it upon themselves to sue 25 companies, including Menzies Aviation and Prospect International, to settle class-action complaints. Fortunately, the “two companies settled with employees this week,” so “thousands of workers will receive back pay for wages withheld by employers.” Just how much in back pay? According to reports, workers will receive millions of dollars in back pay that was previously withheld from them. That’s a lot of money!
So how did this situation get to the point where thousands of workers felt compelled to file lawsuits? Well, after voters approved the minimum wage increase in 2013, it went into effect at the beginning of 2014. The problem was, “employers operating at Sea-Tac International Airport sued the city of SeaTac in an effort to exempt themselves from paying their employees the higher wage.” The King County Superior Court ruled in favor of the companies, claiming that they “technically operated under Port of Seattle jurisdiction.”
One law firm, Badgley Mullins Turner, got word of the situation, and actually started a program “of suing companies that were negligent in paying their workers.” As soon as the program was implemented and the website went live, phones began ringing off the hook with “people coming forward to report their employers.” Thanks to the law firm sounding the alarm on the situation, a resolution was found when the State Supreme Court ruled in favor of workers, saying the wage ordinance included airport employees.
Going forward, workers who took part in the lawsuit can expect to receive checks within the next month or so. An estimated 2,500 current and former employees will benefit from the settlement that was approved Wednesday “by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik.” One of the companies, Menzies Aviation, is expected to pay $8,185,000, while Prospect International is expected to pay between 500 and 600 workers $1,980,000. Those who receive settlement checks will have “180 days to deposit or cash their checks, and another 90 days after that to request a reissued check.”
But what about the people who don’t have updated addresses on file? For example, in the Menzies settlement, an estimated 118 people eligible for payments haven’t been located yet. Fortunately, in these cases, attorneys have set up websites about the lawsuits where workers can “verify their eligibility for the money” and update their contact information. After all, according to attorney Duncan Turner, the overall “goal is to get people paid what they should have been paid.”