Employers: Get Ready Now for Paid Sick Leave
Initiative 1433, which was approved by Washington voters in fall 2016, contains four primary changes to state law:
-Requires employers to provide paid sick leave to most employees beginning Jan. 1, 2018.
-Increases the minimum wage over the next several years.
-Ensures tips and service charges are given to the appropriate staff.
-Protects employees from retaliation when exercising their rights under the Minimum Wage Requirements and Labor Standards Act.
Paid sick leave requirements
Starting Jan. 1, 2018, employers in Washington will be required to provide most of their employees with paid sick leave.
-Most employees must accrue paid sick leave at a minimum rate of one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. This includes part-time and seasonal workers.
-Paid sick leave must be paid to employees at their normal hourly compensation.
-Employees are entitled to use accrued paid sick leave beginning on the 90th calendar day after the start of their employment.
-Unused paid sick leave of 40 hours or less must be carried over to the following year.
-Employers are allowed to provide employees with more generous carry over and accrual policies.
Employees may use paid sick leave:
-To care for themselves or their family members
-When the employees' workplace or their child's school or place of care has been closed by a public official for any health-related reason.
-For absences that qualify for leave under the state's Domestic Violence Leave Act.
Employers may allow employees to use paid sick leave for additional purposes.
-The minimum wage is $11 per hour in 2017.
-The minimum wage applies to all jobs, including agriculture.
-Employers must pay employees age 16 or older at least $11 per hour in 2017.
Employers are allowed to pay 85% of the minimum wage to employees under age 16. For 2017, this rate is $9.35 per hour.
Please note: Seattle, Tacoma, and the City of SeaTac currently have higher minimum wage rates. The local rate applies if it is higher than the state minimum wage rate.
The initiative does not change overtime pay requirements.
-The initiative sets future minimum wage rates.
-The minimum wage will increase annually over the next three years: $11.50 in 2018, $12 in 2019, and $13.50 in 2020.
-Starting Jan. 1, 2021, minimum wage increases will be calculated by L&I using a formula tied to the rate of inflation (based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers - CPI-W: www.bls.gov/data).
Service charges and tips
The initiative states that an employer must pay to its employees:
-All tips and gratuities; and
-All service charges as defined under RCW 49.46.160, except those that are itemized as not being payable to the employee(s) servicing the customer.
Tips and service charges paid to an employee may not offset the state minimum wage requirement.
The new law protects employees from retaliation for exercising their rights under the Minimum Wage Requirements and Labor Standards Act. This includes filing a complaint for wages owed, lawfully using paid sick leave or exercising protected rights.
Online tools help employers get ready
You can find paid sick leave tools, training and other resources at L&I’s new Employer Resource Center (www.Lni.wa/gov/SickLeave). There are also webinars scheduled to help you get ready. To sign up, click “Employer Paid Sick Leave Training” on the right side of the web page. Here are the webinar dates and times:
• Nov. 29: 9:30 a.m., noon, 2:30 p.m.
• Dec. 11: 9:30 a.m., noon, 2:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
• Dec. 18: 9:30 a.m., noon, 2:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
• Dec. 21: 9:30 a.m., noon, 2:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
Sign up for a webinar now! You can also request a Skype or in-person presentation on paid sick leave.
New required L&I workplace poster
In November, Washington employers will receive an updated Your Rights as a Worker poster in the mail. The poster includes information about the new paid sick leave requirements, minimum wage and protections for employees against retaliation. Please post it immediately in a visible, accessible place at your worksite.
Statewide outreach and media campaign to raise awareness
L&I is working with numerous organizations around the state to help employers get ready. L&I is also launching a statewide paid media campaign in November including TV, radio, social media and other online ads, which will run through early 2018.
To learn more, register now for a free L&I webinar.
For more information, go to www.Lni.wa.gov/SickLeave, or contact the Employment Standards Program at L&I by phone (1-866-219-7321) or email (esgeneral@Lni.wa.gov).