Like employers in every state, employers in the state of Washington must follow the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows eligible employees to take unpaid leave for certain reasons. Once an employee’s FMLA leave is over, the employee has the right to be reinstated to his or her position.
Washington law also gives employees the right to take time off for family and medical reasons. Employees are entitled to the protections of all applicable laws; if more than one law applies, the employee may use the most beneficial provisions.
Federal FMLA Rights
Washington employees who are eligible may take up to 12 weeks of leave for serious health conditions, bonding with a new child, or preparation for a family member's military service; more leave is available for employees who need to care for a family member who was seriously injured on active military duty. For detailed information on FMLA leave, see Taking Family and Medical Leave.
Who Is Covered?
Washington employers are subject to the FMLA if they have at least 50 employees for at least 20 weeks in the current or previous year.
Employees are eligible for FMLA leave if:
- they have worked for the company for at least a year
- they worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous year, and
- they work at a location with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.
Reasons for Leave
FMLA leave is available if an employee needs time off to:
- bond with a new child
- recuperate from a serious health condition
- care for a family member with a serious health condition
- handle qualifying exigencies arising out of a family member’s military service, or
- care for a family member who suffered a serious injury during active duty in the military. (You can find more information on these last two types of leave in Military Family Leave for Employees.)
How Much Leave Is Available?
Washington employees may take up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period for a serious health condition, bonding with a new child, or qualifying exigencies. This leave is available every 12 months, as long as the employee continues to meet the eligibility requirements explained above.
Employees may take up to 26 weeks of leave in a single 12-month period for military caregiver leave. However, this is a per-injury, per-service member entitlement. Unless the same family member is injured again, or another family member suffers an injury while on active duty, an employee may not take additional leave for this purpose.
Leave and Reinstatement Rights
Employees are entitled to continue their health insurance while on leave, at the same cost they must pay while working. FMLA leave is unpaid, but employees may be allowed (or required) to use their accrued paid leave during FMLA leave.
When an employee’s FMLA leave ends, the employee is entitled to be reinstated to the same or an equivalent position, with a few exceptions.
Washington Family and Medical Leave Laws
In addition to the rights granted by the FMLA, employees in Washington have the right to family and medical leave under several state laws.
Washington Family and Medical Leave
Employers with at least 50 employees must give eligible employees up to 12 weeks off in a 12-month period for these reasons:
- for the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child
- for the employee’s own serious health condition, or
- to care for a family member with a serious health condition.
Military Family Leave in Washington
Employers must allow eligible employees with a spouse who is in the National Guard, Reserves, or Armed Forces and is deployed or notified of a call to active duty during a period of military conflict to take time off work. Employees may take up to 15 days of unpaid leave per deployment:
- after a spouse has been called to active duty and before actual deployment, or
- while a spouse is on leave during deployment.
Pregnancy Disability Leave
Employers with at least eight employees must allow eligible employees to take time off for the period of time during which they are suffering a disability due to pregnancy childbirth, or related conditions. This time is in addition to the time provided in the federal FMLA and Washington’s family and medical leave law, discussed above.
Domestic Violence Leave
All employers must provide reasonable leave to employees who have been, or whose family member has been, a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. (Family members include children, spouses, parents, parents-in-law, grandparents, or people whom employees are dating.) Leave is available for the employee to:
- seek legal assistance
- seek medical assistance
- get services from a domestic violence shelter, rape crisis center, or other social services program
- get counseling, or
- engage in safety planning.
Family Leave Insurance
The state of Washington adopted a program that would pay eligible employees up to $250 per week for up to five weeks of leave to care for a new child. However, the program has been suspended until at least 2015 due to budget shortfalls.
For More Information
You can get information on Washington’s leave laws at the website of the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.