Washington voters spoke loudly and clearly in favor of increased labor standards, voting to approve I-1433 by a 58-42% margin. The new law raises the minimum wage to $11.00 beginning 2017, $11.50 beginning 2018, $12 beginning 2019, and $13.50 beginning 2020. It also requires employers to begin providing paid sick leave as of January 1, 2018. Employees must also be paid all tips & gratuities, as well as most service charges, and those tips and service charges may not count toward an employee’s minimum wage. Here’s what unions need to know about the new law.
What type of paid sick leave is required?
- Beginning January 1, 2018, employees must accrue at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked.
- Sick leave can be used for the employee’s own physical or mental illness, to care for a family member, when a child’s school or place of care has been closed for health reasons, or for domestic violence leave.
- Employers may require verification for absences longer than three days. Employees are not required to find coverage for their absences.
- Leave may be provided in advance of its accrual. Employees must be able to use accrued sick leave after 90 days of employment.
- Employers must regularly notify employees of the amount of paid sick leave available to them.
- Unused leave must carry over to the following year, up to 40 hours.
- Employees do not get “cashed out” for unused leave upon the termination of employment.
- When an employee returns to an employer after a separation of less than 12 months, previously accrued leave shall be reinstated.
What if there’s already a CBA in effect?
Just like existing minimum wage requirements, the law’s new requirements must be met regardless of whether there is a CBA in effect (an employer may not argue that the requirements are “waived” by a CBA). If a CBA does not already provide paid sick leave, employees must begin accruing it beginning January 1, 2018.
Who does it cover?
The law applies to all workers employed in Washington State except those who are exempt (including certain “white collar” positions such as “bona fide” executive, administrative, or professional employees; outsides salespersons; certain agricultural employees; persons performing in home “casual laborer;” etc.).
What about PTO?The new law does not define “paid sick leave.” Employers may argue that PTO, paid disability leave, or even vacation time complies with the new law. Answers are likely to vary case to case – unions should seek legal counsel if questions arise as to whether an existing leave policy meets an employer’s new obligations.