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Washington Paid Sick Leave Law Effective January 1, 2018

By Josephine B. Vestal, Williams Kastner, Labor & Employment Practice Group Chair

SEATTLE, WA (January 12, 2018) — Beginning January 1, 2018, all employers doing business in Washington are required to provide most of their employees with paid sick leave as required by a 2016 voter passed initiative.

This law is enforced by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. The Department adopted regulations related to paid sick leave in October 2017, which can be found at http://www.lni.wa.gov/WorkplaceRights/files/FamilyLeave/PaidSickLeaveRules.pdf.

 Key points of the law are:

  • The Paid Sick Leave Law applies only to non-exempt employees except those excluded by RCW 49.46.010(3) and includes part-time and seasonal workers otherwise covered;
  • Covered employees must accrue paid sick leave at a rate of at least 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked;
  • Employees must be allowed to carry over unused accrued paid sick leave up to 40 hours to the next year;
  • Employees must be allowed to use accrued paid sick leave after a maximum of 90 days of employment;
  • Employers are required to notify their employees about this new benefit, they are required to post a specific poster, there are requirements that every employer notify its employees about their individual paid sick leave accrual and usage at least monthly and there are also record-keeping requirements;
  • Employees may use paid sick leave to care for themselves or a broadly defined group of family members or for use for purposes under the Domestic Violence Act;
  • Employers are limited in their ability to seek verification of the reason for use of paid sick leave;
  • Employers may not retaliate against employees who use paid sick leave;
  • An employer’s PTO policy can qualify as required paid sick leave as long as it complies with the requirements of the Paid Sick Leave Law; and
  • An employer may have more generous paid sick leave than required by this law.

As you are assuring compliance with this new Paid Sick Leave Law, remember that beginning in 2019 Washington will also have Paid Family and Medical Leave administered by the Washington State Employment Security Department. In 2019, the Department will begin assessing premiums and in 2020, workers will be allowed to apply for up to 12 weeks of paid (or partially paid for more highly compensated employees) leave for personal illness, pregnancy, or the illness of a defined family member.

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Williams Kastner has been serving clients in the Pacific Northwest since 1929 with attorneys in offices throughout Washington, Oregon, and Alaska, as well as affiliated offices in China. The firm offers a full range of legal services to local and international clients.