Washington Paid Sick Leave – Sample Policies and Enforcement Rules

Starting January 1, 2018, Washington employers will have to provide paid sick leave to their employees. All employers are required to provide one hour of paid sick leave to an employee for every 40 hours worked, paid at an employee’s normal hourly compensation. Employees may use paid sick leave: (1) to care for themselves or their family members, (2) when an employee’s workplace or their child’s school or place of care has been closed by a public official for any health-related reason, or (3) for absences that qualify for leave under the state’s Domestic Violence Leave Act.

Because you have likely heard or read about the law’s requirements, the focus of this post is to summarize the Department of Labor and Industries (“the Department”) recent activity: publishing sample policies and publishing enforcement rules.

First, if you have yet to draft your new paid sick leave policies, the Department has just issued sample policies here. The sample policies include Reasonable Notice, Verification, Shared Leave, and Frontloading. The Department has not published a sample general paid sick leave policy covering the major elements of the law, though it should be published soon. I encourage you to review your written paid sick leave policies with the Department’s sample policies to ensure your policies meet the minimum requirements.

Second, the Department just issued rules for enforcing paid sick leave and retaliation claims (view the WAC’s here). Below are the highlights.

  • There is a private cause of action for a retaliation claim. Remember, if an employee succeeds on a claim, he or she is entitled to attorney fees.
  • If an employee files a retaliation complaint with the Department, that employee must do so within 180 days from the alleged retaliatory action.
  • If the Department finds an employer retaliated against an employee for paid sick leave, it can:
    • Order the employer pay the employee his or her paid sick leave, including interest;
    • Order the employer to reinstate the employee to the same or an equivalent position;
    • Assess a penalty – up to $20,000 for the first violation, and up to $40,000 for each repeat violation; and
    • Extend enforcement actions to other violations the Department identifies, including violations of other employees’ rights under Minimum Wage Requirements and Labor Standards.
  • If the Department finds an employer failed to provide an employee with minimal statutory paid sick leave, that employer cannot cap the employee’s carryover of paid sick leave at 40 hours to the following year.

Costs for violating paid sick leave laws and regulations are substantial and there is no grace-period. The enforcement rules are effective January 1, 2018.

If you have not drafted your new paid sick leave policies, or double-checked that your existing policies comply with the minimum requirements under paid sick leave, now is the time. If you need help drafting policies, or would like someone to review your “draft” policies, please contact me at sewing@sbhlegal.com or 503-412-3116.