COMING IN 2018: MANDATED PAID SICK LEAVE FOR ALL EMPLOYERS

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April 17, 2017 | Inslee Best | Inslee Best, Employment, Initiative 1433

COMING IN 2018:  MANDATED PAID SICK LEAVE FOR ALL EMPLOYERS

By Katherine F. Weber

Initiative 1433, passed by the voters in November 2016, requires that all employers in Washington begin providing their employees with paid sick leave, effective January 1, 2018.

Highlights of Initiative 1433’s mandates include:

  • All employees (including exempt, part-time and, likely, temporary employees) are entitled to paid sick leave.
  • The minimum accrual rate for paid sick leave is one hour of leave for every 40 hours worked (currently, with no cap on accrual amounts).
  • The mandatory sick leave begins to accrue upon the employee’s initial hire date, and the employee is entitled to begin using accrued leave 90 days after his/her initial employment.
  • Employees must be permitted to carry over at least 40 hours of accrued leave into the beginning of each calendar year.
  • For absences exceeding three consecutive days, an employer may reasonably require medical verification confirming that an employee’s use of paid sick leave is for an authorized purpose.
  • An employer is not required to “cash out” accrued but unused sick leave upon termination of employment; however, if an employee is rehired by the same employer within 12 months of separation, all previously-accrued sick leave must be reinstated, and the employee’s previous period of employment must be counted for purposes of determining the employee’s eligibility to use paid sick leave.
  • An employer may not discriminate or retaliate against an employee for using his/her accrued paid sick leave.
  • Employers are not prevented from providing more generous paid sick leave policies.

Unfortunately, the text of Initiative 1433 leaves many unanswered questions that arguably require clarification, such as:  (i) must an employer begin tracking its exempt employees’ time for purposes of calculating sick leave accruals; (ii) may an employer require medical verification where leave abuse is suspected; (iii) may an employer properly discipline in cases of confirmed leave abuse or violation of attendance policies, even if the employee used paid sick leave; etc.?

The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) is in the process of developing rules to enforce the requirements of Initiative 1433.  Employers who are interested in providing feedback with respect to the anticipated regulations, or who wish to review the draft proposed rules, may do so at https://lni.us.engagementhq.com.

In the interim, we recommend that employers begin reviewing their existing sick leave policies (or lack thereof) and considering whether changes may be required in light of the above-referenced requirements. While it may be premature to implement changes to existing sick leave policies prior to finalization of the L&I rules, it is not too early to begin thinking about how Initiative 1433 might impact your existing workplace policies and practices with respect to sick leave.

Inslee Best is happy to assist in this endeavor; please do not hesitate to contact one of our attorneys if you have any questions or if we can be of further assistance.

Kathy Weber is a Shareholder at Inslee, Best and head of the firm’s employment department. She can be reached directly at (425) 450-4229 or kweber@insleebest.com.

Disclaimer

This publication is intended to be informational only, to update our clients and friends as to recent legal developments.  It is not intended to be, nor should it be used as, a substitute for specific legal advice, which may only be given in response to inquiries regarding particular situations.