WASHINGTON Q&A: Consider requiring WPFML documentation
Question: We have an employee on medical leave who applied for WPFML benefits, but the notice we received from ESD only provides a broad date range for the approved leave with no other information. How are we supposed to keep track of this?
Answer: Consider requiring the employee to provide you with documentation of their Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave (WPFML) application and their weekly leave benefits claims. The Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) is responsible for managing the WPFML program, including approving the leave, processing claims, making payments, and determining when an individual has exhausted their benefits entitlement. Unfortunately, the employer isn’t privy to information from ESD about how much time off the employee has claimed or when the employee has exhausted their leave entitlement. This has been challenging for Washington employers in determining if leave time is protected under the law.
Recently, in a panel presentation for Washington employment attorneys, the ESD lead policy analyst for WPFML clarified that nothing in the law or regulations prevents an employer from requiring employees to share information about their WPFML claims. For example, requiring your employee to share a screenshot of their weekly benefits claim would be allowed.
Given this statement from ESD, we recommend employers consider taking these steps:
- Review your WPFML policy and revise if necessary to require employees to provide you with written documentation of their application for WPFML benefits, the dates of their leave, each weekly claim showing the hours or days of leave submitted for benefits, and any documentation they receive from ESD. Requiring documentation of each benefits payment is also advisable if you offer partial pay replacement (such as short-term disability benefits) that varies based on the payments the employee receives from ESD. See our Model Policy, Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave Policy for sample language and information.
- Require employees to notify you in writing when their leave is ending or if they exhaust their WPFML benefits entitlement.
- Provide written instructions for meeting these requirements to the employee along with the required Employer Notice to Employee. It’s up to you to decide what type(s) of documentation you will accept, such as a screen shot of the employee’s SecureAccess Washington (SAW) account, a picture of the employee’s payment check, or a copy of a document submitted to or received from ESD. Include this information in your instructions.
- You should not require employees to provide you with a copy of any documents from a health care provider that they submit to ESD, unless you’re requiring it for some other purpose (e.g., a Certification of Health Care Provider for FMLA leave). Such documents likely include private health information the employee isn’t required to provide to you for purposes of WPFML.
For other questions about WPFML, talk to your Vigilant Law Group employment attorney.