Washington Passes Paid Sick Leave Law

Washington employees are entitled to paid leave for illness and other reasons.

Washington has joined a growing number of states that require employers to provide paid sick leave to employees. Washington’s paid sick leave applies to private employers of all sizes and goes into effect on January 1, 2018. Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries will issue regulations before this date, providing additional rules on paid sick leave policies.

How Does Paid Sick Leave Accrue?

Employees will automatically begin to accrue sick leave when the law goes into effect on January 1, 2018. Employees may use accrued leave as long as they have been employed for 90 days.

Employees will accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. Unlike other states, Washington does not place a cap on how much sick leave an employee can accrue or use in a year. However, employees are only entitled to carry over 40 hours of accrued sick leave from year to year.

For What Purposes Can Employees Use Sick Leave?

Employees may use accrued sick leave for the following reasons:

  • the employee’s own illness, treatment, or preventative care
  • a family member’s illness, treatment, or preventative care
  • the closure of the employee’s place of business, or the school or daycare of the employee’s child, due to a public health emergency, and
  • to seek medical, legal, or other assistance for the employee or a family member relating to domestic violence, as provided for by Washington’s Domestic Violence Leave Act.

Washington’s family leave laws define a “family member” as a child, parent, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent-in-law, and grandparent. Washington’s domestic violence law also includes in its definition a romantic partner with whom the employee is in a dating relationship.

Does the Employee Have to Give Notice?

Employers can require employees to provide reasonable notice of the need to use sick leave. When an employee uses three consecutive paid sick days, the employer can also ask for documentation of the reason for the leave. However, the request for documentation must be reasonable and cannot impose an undue burden on the employee or violate the employee’s right to privacy. Employers cannot require employees to find other workers to cover their shifts in order to use sick leave.

What Happens When an Employee Leaves the Company?

Employers are not required to pay out sick leave when an employee leaves the company. However, if the employee is rehired within a year, the employer must reinstate all accrued but unused sick leave that existed at the time of separation.

Effective date: January 1, 2018

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