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Washington Sick Leave Law Takes Effect January 1, 2018

Washington State followed the example of its biggest city, Seattle, and passed a state wide sick leave law that will take effect on January 1, 2018. The law requires all employers to provide paid sick leave to employees.

Sick leave is accrued at a rate of 1 hour per 40 hours worked, with no maximum accrual cap. Employees are eligible to use their accrued time after their 90th day of employment. At the end of the year, unused available hours of 40 or less must be carried over the the next year.

Employers are required to notify each employee of their entitlement to paid sick leave, the rate at which the employee will accrue paid leave, the authorized purposes the leave may be used for, and that retaliation by the employer for the employee's lawful use of paid sick leave is prohibited. This notification must be in written or electronic form. Employees hired on or after January 1, 2018 must receive their notification no later than at commencement of employment. Existing employees who were hired prior to January 1, 2018 must be provided their notification no later than March 1, 2018.

In addition to the original notification of paid sick leave rights, employers are required to provide each employee with notification of the amount of paid sick leave accrued, used, and available for use. Notifications must be made at least monthly and can be included on the employee's regular payroll statement.

Employers can offer a more generous accrual rate or carry over limit if they so choose. Seattle employers with 50 or more full time equivalent (FTE) employees will need to continue to comply with the portions of the Seattle Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance that are more generous than the Washington State law. Under Seattle's ordinance, employers with 50-249 FTEs accrue at 1 hour per 40 hours worked, the same as the Washington state law stipulates, however employees are allowed to carry over up to 56 hours, instead of the 40 hours allowed under Washington's law. Employers with 250 or more FTEs have a higher accrual rate of 1 hour per 30 hours worked and are allowed to carry over up to 72 hours (or 108 if the sick time accrual is part of a Paid Time Off policy that includes use for vacation and other personal leave).

Employers can visit the Department of Labor & Industries employer resource center for more information about how to comply with the new state law. Seattle employers can refer to Seattle's Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance webpage to help determine to which portions of that ordinance they will still be subject.

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