Washington state government agencies are now prohibited from using any businesses that have previously cheated their employees out of earned wages.

Senate Bill 5301, signed today by the governor, bars companies from receiving both state and local contracts, if a judge has determined that they willfully violated state wage theft laws. 

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Auburn, passed the Senate overwhelmingly in February by 46-3 vote and passed the House by a 63-33 margin in April. The companion measure, House Bill 1936, was sponsored by Rep. Zack Hudgins, D-Tukwila.

“We need to send a message that the state will not do business with those who cheat hard-working Washingtonians,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. “Government contracts – and taxpayer dollars – should only go to companies that play by the rules.”

“This change will affirm the state’s commitment to protecting workers and reward businesses who respect the law and take care of their employees,” said Sen. Miloscia, chair of the Senate State Government Committee. 

Washington state government spends more than $1 billion annually to buy goods and services – and the state spends billions more on public works contracts – but currently, companies that receive contracts from state and local governments are not always required to demonstrate compliance with wage laws.

According to a study by Economic Policy Institute, twice as much money was stolen from workers in 2012 due to wage theft, as was taken in hold-ups of banks, gas stations and convenience stores.