Employment Law Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law and HR

Jan 02, 2018

Final rules released for Washington paid sick leave

Leave Laws 

Effective January 1, 2018, Washington employers are now required to provide mandatory paid sick leave to all employees. The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) recently released the final rules addressing Initiative 1433, which mandates 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, with no cap on accrual or usage, and annual carryover of at least 40 hours.
 
The final rules are almost exactly the same as the draft rules we’ve been reporting on since July, and contain only a handful of minor changes. More significantly, L&I also released a Concise Explanatory Statement, clarifying many of the new sick leave requirements. The Concise Explanatory Statement addresses many of the outstanding questions about the Washington Paid Sick Leave (WPSL) rules that were common among employers; for example:
 

  • PTO Policies – A Paid Time Off (PTO) policy is allowed under WPSL as long as it meets or exceeds all detailed requirements of the law, including reasonable notice, increments of use, and carryover requirements. Employers who offer more PTO hours than required by the WPSL can choose to designate a portion of PTO for paid sick leave use, but must track the accrual and usage of the sick leave portion separately in order to apply different procedures to the non-sick leave portion of the PTO. For example, if you want to require more than 10 days’ notice of vacation, or use of leave in larger increments of time, you have to track accrual and usage of the sick leave portion separately from all other leave.
  • Verification of Absences – Employers are allowed to require verification of absences when the employee has been absent on more than three consecutive required work days (for part or all of each day). Employers aren’t allowed to require verification of shorter absences, even when abuse of leave is suspected. However, employers are allowed to require medical verification of absences under other circumstances if permitted or required to do so under other federal, state, or local laws, such as the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
  • Cash out – Employers aren’t required to cash out any paid sick leave, and are only allowed to cash it out in two circumstances: (1) upon separation from employment (with mutual written agreement) or (2) at the end of the leave year if the employee has more than 40 hours of accrued unused leave (40 hours must be carried over to the next leave year, so those hours cannot be cashed out).

Paid sick leave is mandatory for all Washington-based employees who are non-exempt (i.e. covered by minimum wage and overtime laws). The WPSL also requires each employer to have a written sick leave policy, which must include specified details about the employer’s plan and procedures, and provide various written notifications to employees. To be in compliance, use our model policy, “Washington Paid Sick Leave Model Policy” as a starting point or as your own (see additional resources below).
 

Tips and Resources for Employers

WPSL Webinar and FAQs

Vigilant presented a webinar on Washington Paid Sick Leave on September 21, 2017. Be sure to listen to the webinar recording and view the webinar handout if you haven’t already done so. We’ve now updated the webinar FAQs to reflect the final rules.

Model Policy

We’ve updated our Model Policies, “Washington Paid Sick Leave Policy” and “Seattle Paid Sick and Safe Time Policy,” as well as our Legal Guides, “Paid Sick Leave Laws: Washington State and Local Ordinances” and “Paid Sick Leave Laws: California, Oregon, Washington and Federal.”

Work with Your Employment Attorney to Ensure Compliance

If you aren’t already working with your Vigilant employment attorney on complying with Washington paid sick leave, we encourage you to make contact as soon as possible.

Not a member, but still looking for help with Washington paid sick leave? Check out our unlimited flat-fee employment law advice and contact us to see how we can help you.

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