Investigation Process

Worker’s Guide to OLS Investigations

Financial Remedies Summary 

Enforcement Procedures (SHRR 140)

OLS begins an investigation when it has reason to believe that a specific violation occurred or is occurring under Seattle's labor laws. You can find more information on our Ordinances page.

For a more detailed description of our process from intake to resolution, see our handout on the Office of Labor Standards Investigation Process. The majority of cases our investigations resolve in a settlement agreement between OLS and the employer. You can also find more information on financial remedies available under the Ordinances in the Financial Remedies Summary. Every year, OLS announces the Annual Increases to Seattle Minimum Wage and Labor Standards Penalties. That memorandum includes the required increase to the Seattle minimum wage and increase to all labor standards penalties and fines to reflect the annual rate of inflation or other statutorily mandated adjustments. You can access that memorandum using the Office of the City Clerk’s Online Information Resources web page, at To locate the most recent memorandum with this year’s rates, scroll down to the “Combined search of legislation” box and type the following into the search bar: "Office of Labor Standards (OLS) Annual Increases to Seattle Minimum Wage and Labor Standards Penalties, Fines.”

Enforcement Guidelines

The Seattle Office of Labor Standards works to improve the lives of Seattle's workers through enforcement of the City's labor standards ordinances. Every day, workers and other community members contact our office with questions about Seattle's labor standards laws. Anyone can report an employer for alleged labor standards violations, and we do our best to find solutions to those complaints. OLS also investigates employers, sectors, and industries when, based on information other than worker complaints, we have reason to believe labor standards violations are occurring.

OLS strives to serve Seattle's most vulnerable workers-people working low-wage jobs in industries where the rate of labor standards violations is high. And we aim to improve conditions for as many workers as possible through company-wide, strategic enforcement of our ordinances. Unfortunately, our office receives many more complaints than we can immediately resolve.

To prioritize the most urgent and severe violations, and maximize the number of workers reached, we consider several factors when selecting which investigations to pursue. Through this selection process, we aim to reach and serve workers with the least resources, who are experiencing egregious labor standards violations, and who most need our agency's support and investigative power. Among many considerations, we examine the following:

  • Income – Currently our income limit is approximately 350% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines for 2024:
    • $52,710 per year
    • $4,393 per month,
    • $1014 per week, or
    • $25.34 per hour.
  • Vulnerability of impacted workforce.
  • Severity of violations and impact on workers.
  • Number of workers impacted by the alleged violations.
  • Potential to cause beneficial ripple effect in the industry.
  • Potential for community partner involvement and support.
  •  Alignment with national strategic enforcement efforts.

We prioritize worker complaints from the following industries:

  • Construction
  • Food services and drinking places
  • Health care
  • Home health care
  • Hotels and motels
  • Manufacturing, transportation, and warehousing
  • Personal and repair services
  • Retail trade
  • Security, building, and grounds services
  • Social assistance, education, and child care

OLS refers workers with complaints that fall outside of these guidelines to community resources that can provide more immediate assistance, whether through mediation, small claims court, action by other enforcement agencies, or private representation.

Many investigations meet the criteria above, but OLS cannot begin investigating all of them immediately. Instead, OLS maintains a waitlist and opens investigations off of the waitlist when our caseload permits. When deciding which waitlisted investigations to open, we do not take a first-come, first-served approach. Rather, we consider the following factors, among others:

  • Urgency of situation and severity of alleged violations.
  • Potential for positive ripple effect in industry, sector, or workforce population.
  • Opportunity for community partner involvement and support.
  • Availability of outside resources.
  • Likelihood of unintended consequences.

*Last updated February 2024

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The Office of Labor Standards enforces Seattle’s labor standards ordinances to protect workers and educate employers on their responsibilities.