Vigilant Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law, HR, safety & workers' comp

May 18, 2023

WASHINGTON: Governor signs 2023 legislation

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The 2023 legislative regular session ended on April 23, 2023, with Washington Governor Jay Inslee signing multiple employment-related bills into law. Please see our separate articles in today’s newsletter on two of those bills, “WASHINGTON: New bill limits most pre-employment cannabis tests” (regarding ESSB 5123) and “WASHINGTON: Employers must notify warehouse employees of quotas” (regarding HB 1762). Below are additional bills of interest to employers.

ESHB 1106: Unemployment benefits for voluntary resignations. Allows more individuals to qualify for unemployment benefits by expanding the good cause reasons for voluntarily leaving work. For separations on or after September 3, 2023, the existing allowance for good cause to leave work due to the death, illness, or disability of a claimant’s “immediate family” expands to apply to any family member. For separations that occur on or after July 7, 2024, and before July 8, 2029, good cause includes the unavailability of care for a child or a vulnerable adult in the claimant’s care. In both situations, to qualify for unemployment benefits, the claimant must first seek a change in working conditions or work schedule to accommodate the death, illness, disability, or unavailability of care, or request a leave of absence, and must promptly request reemployment when able to return to work. For separations that occur on or after July 7, 2024, good cause also includes relocating to follow a minor child who moved outside of the claimant’s labor market, or situations in which the claimant had a regularly scheduled start or end time for the prior 90 calendar days and the employer (without request by the claimant and not based on a system of seniority) changes the regularly scheduled start or end time by six or more hours on a non-temporary basis. This bill takes effect July 23, 2023.

HB 1262: Child support withholding from lump sum payments. Adopts a program for employers to deduct child support from lump sum payments when an employee is in arrears for child support. Lump sum payments don’t include reimbursement for expenses. Examples of lump sum payments include discretionary and nondiscretionary bonuses, commissions, performance bonuses, merit increases, safety awards, signing bonuses, moving and relocation incentive payments, holiday pay, termination pay, and severance pay. Lump sum payments also include workers’ compensation time loss payments, insurance settlements, and personal injury settlements paid as replacement for wages owed. The bill establishes procedures for notifying the Division of Child Support and determining how much to withhold. This bill takes effect July 23, 2023. We will be updating our Legal Guide, Washington Wage Withholding Handbook.

SHB 1217: Interest charged on settled wage complaints. Requires the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) to charge one percent interest per month on all amounts owed on settlements of wage complaints even when no citation and notice of assessment is issued. The employee may request a waiver or reduction of interest as part of the settlement process. This bill applies to all wage complaints filed on or after January 1, 2024.

SSHB 1491: Prohibition on searches of employees’ personal vehicles. Generally prohibits employers from searching employees’ personal vehicles located on the employer’s parking lots or garages or located on the access road to those parking lots or garages. The bill provides for limited exceptions to this prohibition: (1) vehicles owned or leased by the employer; (2) lawful searches by law enforcement officers; (3) when the employer requires or allows an employee to use their personal vehicle for work-related activities and the employer needs to inspect the vehicle to ensure it’s suited to conduct the work-related activities; (4) when a reasonable person would believe that accessing an employee’s vehicle is necessary to prevent an immediate threat to human health, life, or safety; (5) when an employee consents to a search by the business owner, owner’s agent, or a licensed private security guard based on “probable cause” (a high legal standard) that the employee unlawfully possesses employer property or a controlled substance in violation of both federal law and the employer’s written policy prohibiting drug use—an employee who consents to such a search may select a witness to be present; (6) security inspections on state and federal military property; (7) vehicles located on the premises of a state correctional institution; or (8) “specific employer areas subject to searches under state or federal law.” You cannot require, as a condition of employment, that an employee or prospective employee waive the right to the protections under the new law. You should review and update any policy language on searches (such as in your drug and alcohol policy) to ensure they comply with the new law. This bill takes effect July 23, 2023.

SB 5111: Paid sick leave cash-out for construction workers. Requires employers to pay any unused and accrued paid sick leave to covered construction workers who separate from employment before reaching the 90-day threshold to use paid sick leave. The bill generally applies to workers covered under North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code 23 (construction), but carves out an exception for residential building construction, which the bill describes as NAICS code 236100. This appears to be a mistake, since there is no NAICS code 236100, but the 2022 NAICS database lists 2361 as the code for residential building construction, so we recommend reviewing the definition for code 2361 to determine whether the exception applies. This bill takes effect January 1, 2024.

SSB 5286: Washington Paid Family and Medical leave (WPFML) rate calculation changes. Changes the date the state calculates the upcoming WPFML premium rates from September 30 to on or around October 20 each year and also changes the method of calculating the premium rate. This bill takes effect July 23, 2023.

SSB 5586: Access to certain Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave (WPFML) information. Allows interested parties including current employers and their third-party administrators to get the following WPFML claim information from the Employment Security Department (ESD): type of leave being taken; requested duration of leave including the approved dates of leave; and whether the employee was approved for benefits and paid benefits for any given week. Any information provided may only be used to administer internal employer leave or benefit practices under established employer policies. ESD may investigate unauthorized use of these records. This bill takes effect January 1, 2024.

Tips: Contact your Vigilant Law Group employment attorney with any questions about how these newly signed bills may affect your workplace. In particular, you should ensure that your search policies and practices comply with SSHB 1491’s restrictions on searches of employees’ personal vehicles.

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.