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What Is Tacoma, WA Minimum Wage?


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The minimum wage in Tacoma, WA, is a topic of interest for employers and employees in the region. As of January 1, 2024, Tacoma follows the state of Washington's minimum wage regulations, with the city having transitioned to the state's guidelines after setting its rates up until the end of 2019. Here is a comprehensive overview of the minimum wage in Tacoma, WA, based on the latest available data:

Washington State's Minimum Wage in 2024

The state of Washington announced an increase in the minimum wage to $16.28 per hour starting January 1, 2024. This adjustment represents a 3.4 percent increase over the 2023 rate, reflecting changes in the cost of living as measured by the Consumer Price Index. This statewide change affects all workers aged 16 and older, with provisions allowing employers to pay 85 percent of the minimum wage to workers aged 14-15, which amounts to $13.84 per hour in 2024.

Tacoma's Minimum Wage

For Tacoma, WA, the minimum wage aligns with the statewide rate of $16.28 per hour as of January 1, 2024. This standard applies to nearly all employees who work within Tacoma city limits. Both employers and employees in Tacoma need to note that the city's minimum wage is governed by Washington state's legislation, which provides annual adjustments based on inflation and other economic indicators.

Exceptions and Specific Cases

Certain workers may be eligible for wages different from the standard minimum wage under specific conditions. For example, there are provisions for paying a subminimum wage to workers with disabilities, learners, student learners, student workers, and apprentices. Still, these are subject to strict criteria and require approval from the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).

Compliance and Enforcement


The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries is responsible for enforcing the state's wage-and-hour laws, including the minimum wage. Employers and workers in Tacoma can seek guidance and file complaints regarding wage violations through L&I.

Impact on Local Economy and Employment

The adjustment in the minimum wage reflects the state's commitment to ensuring that workers receive fair compensation that keeps pace with the cost of living. This means adapting to increased labor costs through budgeting and operational planning for businesses. For workers, it represents an opportunity for improved earnings, potentially affecting local spending and economic dynamics.

As of January 1, 2024, Tacoma's minimum wage is $16.28 per hour, in line with the statewide minimum wage set by Washington State. This ensures that workers in Tacoma are subject to the same minimum wage standards as those across the state, with annual adjustments reflecting changes in the economy and cost of living.

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Below is a table summarizing the differences between the minimum wages in Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, as of January 1, 2024. This comparison helps to illustrate the variations in minimum wage policies within different cities in the state of Washington.

Criteria Seattle Minimum Wage (2024) Tacoma Minimum Wage (2024)
Standard Minimum Wage $19.97/hour $16.28/hour
For Large Employers (501+ employees) $19.97/hour $16.28/hour (Statewide Rate)
For Small Employers (500 or fewer employees) $16.28/hour (Statewide Rate)
– Without Tips or Healthcare Benefits $19.97/hour
– With Tips or Healthcare Benefits $17.25/hour minimum wage must reach at least $19.97/hour in total compensation
For Workers Aged 14-15 Not specified $13.84/hour (85% of the standard minimum wage)
Adjustments Adjusted annually for inflation Adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index
Special Considerations Tips and service charges have specific rules; tips must be shown on paystubs to count towards minimum compensation. Applies statewide, with no specific mention of differences for tips or service charges in Tacoma.


  • Seattle's Minimum Wage: Seattle's minimum wage varies based on the employer's size and whether the employee receives tips or healthcare benefits. Large employers must pay at least $19.97/hour, while small employers have a minimum compensation requirement that can include tips and healthcare benefits to reach the total minimum compensation of $19.97/hour. The base wage for employees receiving tips or healthcare benefits from small employers is $17.25/hour.
  • Tacoma's Minimum Wage: Tacoma follows the statewide minimum wage of $16.28/hour for all workers, without differentiation between large and small employers or adjustments based on tips or healthcare benefits. This rate applies to all employees working within city limits, aligning with Washington State's legislation for minimum wage.

This table compares the minimum wage regulations in Seattle and Tacoma, highlighting the city-specific approaches to ensuring fair labor standards.

When discussing the interplay between state laws and city ordinances regarding minimum wage settings, it's crucial to understand the broader framework within which these wage standards are determined and enforced. This section explores how state laws interact with city ordinances in setting the minimum wage, highlighting the complexities, legal challenges, and controversies that can arise from this dynamic.

State Laws vs. City Ordinances

State laws establish the baseline minimum wage that applies across all jurisdictions within the state. However, states often empower cities and counties to enact minimum wage laws, provided these local ordinances set higher wages than the state minimum. This approach allows local governments to adjust minimum wage rates to reflect better the cost of living and economic conditions in their areas.

Legal Framework and Autonomy

The legal framework granting cities the autonomy to set their minimum wages varies significantly from state to state. Some states, such as Washington, have supported local efforts to increase minimum wages beyond the state minimum. In these states, city ordinances often serve as a testbed for progressive labor policies that, if successful, can influence state and national policies.

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However, this autonomy can sometimes lead to conflicts and legal challenges. For example, some states have enacted preemption laws prohibiting cities and counties from setting their minimum wage rates, arguing that a uniform statewide minimum wage simplifies business compliance and avoids a patchwork of wage standards.

Case Studies: Seattle and Tacoma

The relationship between state laws and city ordinances has been complimentary in Washington State, with cities like Seattle leading the charge in implementing higher local minimum wages. Seattle's progressive stance on the minimum wage, including its step-wise increase to one of the highest rates in the nation, showcases how city ordinances can extend beyond state minimums to address local economic realities and cost of living.

Tacoma, on the other hand, follows the state minimum wage, which itself is among the highest in the United States. Tacoma's alignment with the state minimum wage reflects a different approach, where the state's progressive wage policies may already meet the needs of its cities without the need for additional local ordinances.

Legal Challenges and Controversies

The push for higher local minimum wages has not been without controversy and legal battles. Critics argue that higher local minimum wages can burden small businesses, potentially leading to job losses or business closures. Proponents counter that higher wages increase consumer spending and reduce employee turnover, benefiting the local economy.

Legal challenges to city ordinances typically revolve around issues of authority and preemption. In some states, cities have had to defend in court their right to set higher local minimum wages against challenges from business groups or state legislatures. These legal battles can shape the future landscape of minimum wage laws, influencing state legislation and local ordinance authority.

The interaction between state laws and city ordinances in setting the minimum wage is a complex and evolving issue. It reflects a balance between allowing local governments to address specific needs and maintaining a cohesive economic policy at the state level. As cities like Seattle and Tacoma navigate these waters, they contribute to a broader discussion on the best ways to ensure fair wages for workers while supporting economic growth and business viability.

Here is a table comparing the cost of living in Tacoma vs. Seattle:

Cost of Living Category Tacoma, WA Seattle, WA Comments
Overall Cost of Living Index 122.7 158.1 Seattle is significantly more expensive than Tacoma.
Housing Index 148.2 291.9 Housing costs are nearly twice as high in Seattle compared to Tacoma.
Median Home Cost $454,100 $823,900 Reflecting the housing index, the median home cost is nearly double in Seattle.
Utilities Index Specific utility cost comparison is not provided, but it is generally higher in Seattle.
Transportation Index 119.3 137.5 Transportation costs are higher in Seattle, likely due to longer commutes and higher public transit fees.
Food & Groceries Index 101.2 108.7 Groceries are slightly more expensive in Seattle.
Health Index 88.3 88.2 Health-related expenses are roughly the same in both cities.
Miscellaneous 129.4 150.7 General goods and services are more expensive in Seattle.
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Key Insights:

  • Seattle's Cost of Living: Seattle's overall cost of living is significantly higher than Tacoma's, driven primarily by housing costs, which are almost double those in Tacoma. This reflects Seattle's booming tech market and higher salaries, contributing to increased demand and higher living costs.
  • Housing Affordability: The stark difference in median home costs highlights the challenge of affordability in Seattle, making Tacoma a more attractive option for those seeking more affordable housing without moving too far from the economic opportunities in Seattle.
  • Transportation and Utilities: While specific utility costs were not detailed, transportation costs, including public transit and potentially longer commutes, are higher in Seattle. This might be due to Seattle's larger geographic area and more congested traffic conditions.
  • Food, Groceries, and Health: Food and groceries are slightly more expensive in Seattle, but the difference is not as pronounced as in housing. Health-related expenses are comparable in both cities, suggesting similar quality and access to healthcare services.

This table illustrates the significant difference in the cost of living between Tacoma and Seattle, with Seattle being markedly more expensive, primarily due to housing. This comparison is crucial for individuals and families considering relocating to either city, as it impacts budgeting, lifestyle choices, and overall financial planning.

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