Seattle, WA: New Changes to Paid Sick and Safe Ordinance


All Employers with Seattle, WA Employees


January 14, 2018


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Washington’s statewide paid sick leave law went into effect on January 1, 2018, requiring employers to create a paid sick leave policy that offers the correct level of benefits depending on various localities’ own regional paid sick and safe time laws. In late December, Seattle amended its own Paid Sick and Safe Ordinance to more closely align with the statewide law. Although Seattle has required employers to provide paid sick and safe time (“PSST”) in some manner since 2012, the newest amendments were recently implemented as of January 14, 2018. Key changes are summarized below.

Topic Previously Effective Jan 1, 2018 Effective Jan 14, 2018
Eligibility To qualify as Tier 1, employers must employ 5-49 full-time equivalents (FTE). To qualify as Tier 1, employers must have 1-49 FTEs.
Employees are covered by the Ordinance if they work more than 240 hours inside Seattle in a year. The 240 hour threshold has been eliminated; new rules defining occasional basis employees are to be issued by the Office of Labor Standards Director.
Provided exemption for employees engaged under a work-study agreement. Removed exemption.
New Tier 1 and Tier 2 employers are exempt from providing PSST for two years. Two-year exemption now only applies to elements of PSST that are more generous that the statewide version.
PSST does not apply to employees covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement with an express waiver. Waiver is only available through December 31, 2018 for provisions of PSST more generous than the statewide version.  After January 1, 2019, CBA waivers of PSST are not permitted.
Usage Employees can use PSST after 180 calendar days from date of employment. Employees can use PSST after 90 calendar days from date of employment.
PSST usage may be capped. Employers cannot cap usage of PSST during the year, and may only cap carryover of accrued, unused PSST to the following year.
Employers of certain eating or drinking establishments permitted to offer substitute hours or shifts to employees and pay PSST for differential. Exception removed; employers cannot require or ask an employee to find a replacement for their intended use of PSST.
Employees may use PSST when the employee’s place of business, or employee’s child’s school or place of care, has been closed by order of a public official due to certain conditions. Employees may use PSST when the place of business, or employee’s child’s school or place of care, has been closed by order of a public official for any health-related reason.
PSST is used in the smaller of hourly increments, or increments that round to the nearest quarter of an hour. PSST is used in hourly increments, or in the smallest increment in which the employer’s payroll system tracks compensation (if less than hour increments).
Definitions “Family Member” means child (minor or dependent), spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law, or grandparent. Adds child (of any age), sibling, and grandchild to definition of “Family Member.”
Documentation Employers can request a doctor’s note to verify use of PSST after three consecutive days. Employers can request verification so long as it does not result in unreasonable burden or expense to the employee or violate privacy requirements. Verification must be provided to the employer within a reasonable period during or after the leave. The Office of Labor Standards Director may issue rules permitting other documentation authorized to be used to verify the purpose of the leave.
Employers can request verification of use of PSST for domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking by way of reasonable documentation (such as police report, court order, evidence from court or prosecuting attorney) after three consecutive days. Revises sources of reasonable documentation to include an advocate for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, a member of the clergy, a medical or other professional, or an employee’s own written statement.
Notice & Recordkeeping Requirements Employers must provide notice of available PSST each time wages are paid. Notice must now also include total PSST accrued and PSST used.
Employers must retain records of hours worked in Seattle and employee PSST usage for three years. Employer records must also now include: date of hire; total hours worked, including hours worked within Seattle; total PSST accrued; total PSST used or not carried over; any other requirements determined by the City.
Employers must provide a written PSST policy describing certain provisions, such as the benefit year, tier size, accrual and carry over, etc. Written PSST policy must also include: information regarding employees’ right to PSST; non-retaliation language; frontloading information; new verification of PSST usage language; information on sharing PSST; information on combined PTO/PSST provisions, if applicable.
Compensation PSST is compensated at employee’s hourly rate, with no regard to lost tips or commissions. PSST is paid at the “normal hourly compensation,” with no language excluding tips or commissions.

Action Items

  1. Review the text of the amended Ordinance here.
  2. Have policy documents and employee handbooks updated to comply with the amended Ordinance.
  3. Have supervisory staff trained on new provisions for verification of usage of PSST.
  4. Ensure PSST accrual and usage balance is addressed on wage statements.

Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser.

© 2018 ManagEase

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