Implementation of New Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Leave Requirements in Washington State

Statewide Sick Leave … Implementation

               In November 2016, Washington voters approved I-1433, which provided a statewide increase to the minimum wage ($11.50 as of January 1, 2018) and statewide implementation of paid sick leave. Paid sick leave becomes effective January 1, 2018. In October 2017, the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (“L&I”) finalized the regulations implementing I-1433. It’s time to make sure you’re ready for these changes. In our previous blog post, we addressed key aspects of the new regulations to be aware of as an employer. This blog post addresses key aspects of implementation that apply to all employers, even if they already comply with Seattle’s Paid Sick/Safe Leave.

Notice to Employees: All non-exempt employees, including part-time and seasonal employees, must be notified of the new paid sick leave. For employees hired after January 1, 2018, notice must be given no later than the commencement of employment. For existing employees, notice must be given no later than March 1, 2018.

Form/Content of Notice: The regulations require that notice be provided in written or electronic form. The notice must include the following information:

a)       The rate that paid sick leave accrues;

b)      The accrual year;

c)       The number of hours that can be carried over;

d)      What happens to hours in excess of the allowed carry over; and

e)      When the employee may begin using their accrued paid sick leave.

L&I is finalizing a sample notice as a resource for employers. The draft notice has two-parts, with one part given to the employee and one part placed in the employee’s file, which includes space for the employee to sign confirming receipt of the notice. This format for the notice is a recommended best practice.

Reporting: At least monthly, employers must provide notice to employees detailing the amount of paid sick leave that has been accrued, any use of paid sick leave since the last notification, and the amount of unused, accrued paid sick leave that is available to the employee. This information can be included on regular payroll statements.

Frontloaded Leave: Employers may choose to frontload paid sick leave. The frontloaded paid sick leave must be based on the anticipated number of hours the employee would accrue during the leave period. If an employee works more hours than anticipated during the period and would have accrued more hours than were frontloaded, the employer must add the additional hours to the employee’s paid sick leave bank as soon as practicable, but not later than 30 days after identifying the discrepancy. Frontloaded paid sick leave requires a written policy to be in place prior to implementation.

Shared Leave: Employers may choose to create a shared sick leave program to allow employees to donate paid sick leave to a coworker. Such a program must be established in writing and in place prior to implementation.

Paid Time Off (PTO) Programs: Some employers currently provide PTO programs in lieu of providing paid leave under Seattle’s Paid Sick/Safe Leave. The new regulations allow these programs to continue provided the employer’s PTO program meets or exceeds the minimum requirements of the statewide paid sick leave regulations. Such a program must be established in writing.

Now is the time to review your existing policies to determine whether they comply with the new regulations and, if necessary, to create written policies that bring your company into compliance. If you have any questions about these new regulations and written policy requirements, please contact Jason Bergevin or the attorney with whom you normally consult at Holmquist + Gardiner, PLLC.

This is intended to be a source of general information, not an opinion or legal advice on any specific situation, and does not create an attorney-client relationship with our readers. If you would like more information regarding whether we may assist you in any particular matter, please contact one of our lawyers, using care not to provide us with any confidential information until we have notified you in writing that there are no conflicts of interest and that we have agreed to represent you on the specific matter that is the subject of your inquiry.