Seattle Mandates Paid Sick Leave For Workers
Posted Wednesday, July 18, 2012 by Lisa Benedetti
Seattle is set to become the third major city in the country, after San Francisco and Washington, D.C. to mandate paid leave for employees to care for themselves or family members when ill, or fall victim to domestic violence. The paid leave legislation will take effect September 2012 and affect businesses with at least five full-time employees. Just recently, the city council voted 8-1 to mandate the paid leave legislation, and Mayor Mike McGinn is expected to sign the legislation into law.
According to the new legislation, the paid sick and safe days are aimed at promoting the safety, health and welfare of the people of the City of Seattle, and also to make sure that victims of domestic violence and sexual assault have time to participate in legal proceedings, obtain necessary services, and/or receive medical treatment. Proponents of the legislation see it as a way to allow businesses to succeed while also ensuring good working conditions for employees. Opponents of the legislation believe that it makes it more expensive to do business and more difficult to create jobs.
Below are some quick highlights of the new legislation:
Amount of Paid Time Required:
The maximum number of paid days that must be provided is stated clearly in the legislation. Businesses with 5 to 49 employees are required to provide at least one hour of paid time for every 40 hours, up to a required maximum of 40 hours per calendar year (5 days). Businesses with 50 to 249 employees are required to provide at least one hour of paid time for every 40 hours, up to a required maximum of 56 hours per calendar year (7 days). Businesses with 250 or more employees are required to provide at least one hour of paid time for every 30 hours, up to a required maximum of 72 hours per calendar year (9 days).
What is considered “sick time” and “safe time”?
The legislation defines paid “sick time” as absence resulting from an employee’s own mental or physical illness, injury or health concern, and/or absence resulting from the care of a family member for such. Paid “safe time” is defined as when employee takes time off because their place of business is closed by order of public official to limit exposure to infectious agent, biological toxin, or hazardous material, when they are accommodating to their child’s school closure, or if they are obtaining or assisting a family member in obtaining help in situations related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The employer may request for documentation from the employee under certain circumstances.
Existing PTO Policies:
Businesses with existing Paid Time Off (PTO) policies may not be required to alter their policies as long as it satisfies the minimum requirements set forth by the legislation.
Employees are allowed to carry over paid sick time and paid safe time to the following calendar year. However, employers with 5-49 employees do not have to allow their employees to carry over a combined total of paid sick time and paid safe time in excess of 40 hours; employers with 50-249 employees do not have to allow their employees to carry over a combined total of paid sick time and paid safe time in excess of 56 hours; and employers with 250 or more employees do not have to allow their employees to carry over a combined total of paid sick time and paid safe time in excess of 72 hours.
Employees would have to wait 180 days before using their paid leave if employed by a business with fewer than 250 employees. For larger businesses, employees would have only a 90 day waiting period before paid leave is available. Businesses also have a certain amount of time to implement the new requirements.Retaliation and Posting Requirements:
Employers may not take adverse action or discriminate against an employee because they have exercised in good faith, the rights protected under this legislation. Additionally, employers shall give notice to their employees of their rights under this legislation. The Agency shall create and make available to employers a poster and a model notice to be posted in English and Spanish, and any other languages that the Agency determine as necessary. An employer who willfully violates the notice and posting requirements of this section shall be subject to a civil fine in an amount not to exceed $125 for the first violation and $250 for subsequent violations. The legislation also sets forth requirements for the employer to keep records documenting hours worked by employees.
You can find a full text of the Seattle paid sick leave ordinance here
For information and legal advice concerning these developments, please contact Emily C. Rao at Pivotal Law Group, PLLC at (206) 340-2008.