Lawmakers weigh training wage for new employees

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OLYMPIA — Washington state has the highest state minimum wage in the nation, but a new bill being considered by lawmakers would allow some employers to pay a lower "training wage" to new employees for a period of time.

The measure heard before the Senate Commerce & Labor Committee on Wednesday would establish a training certificate for employers with fewer than 50 employees. The certificate would allow them to pay new employees 75 percent of the minimum wage in a training period to last no longer than 680 hours. The state's minimum wage increased by 15 cents this month to $9.19 per hour.

Employers would only be able to use the certificate once per employee, and training wages could not be used on more than 10 percent of the employer's workforce.

A companion bill in the House had a public hearing Tuesday.

Exceptions to the minimum wage law already exist, with employers being able to pay less than the minimum wage to certain groups such as student workers at schools they attend, and individuals impaired by age or physical or mental deficiency or injury. State law also allows a training wage for 85 percent of minimum wage for 14- and 15-year-olds.