Seattle to Require Paid Sick Time to Employees

October, 2011


The Seattle City Council recently voted to require employers to provide paid "sick and safe” time to employees working in Seattle beginning in September 2012. The new ordinance applies to all employers in the city of Seattle with five or more employees. It also applies to employees who perform more than 240 hours of work per year in Seattle, even if their employer is not located in Seattle.

Under the new ordinance, paid "sick and safe” time is generally available for absences resulting from certain illness, injury, health conditions, diagnosis, and preventative care of the employee or their family member. Specific absences due to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking are also covered. Additional covered absences include the closure of the employee’s place of business or closure of their child’s school due generally due to health concerns.

Highlights of the requirements of what must be offered

First, employers are categorized by the number of employees, including temporary and part-time employees.

  • Tier one employers employ more than four but fewer than 50 full-time equivalent employees on average per calendar week.

  • Tier two employers employ at least 50 and fewer than 250 full-time equivalent employees on average per calendar week.

  • Tier three employers employer 250 or more full-time equivalent employees on average per calendar week.

Second, the amount of paid sick and safe time depends on the tier of the employer:

  • Tier One Employers (5-49 employees)

    • Employees of a tier one employer must accrue at least one hour of paid time for every 40 hours worked. Tier one employers are not required to allow more than 40 hours of paid sick and safe time off per calendar year.

    • Unused paid sick and safe time must be carried over to the following calendar year; however, no tier one employer is required to allow employees to carry over more than 40 hours of paid sick and safe time.

  • Tier Two Employers (50-249 employees)

    • Employees of a tier two employer must accrue at least one hour of paid time for every 40 hours worked. Tier two employers are not required to allow more than 56 hours per calendar year.

    • Unused paid sick and safe must be carried over to the following calendar year; however, no tier two employer is required to allow employees to carry over more than 56 hours of paid sick and safe time.

  • Tier Three Employers (250 plus employees)

    • Employees of a tier three employer must accrue at least one hour of paid time for every 30 hours worked. Tier three employers are not required to allow more than 72 hours of paid sick and safe time per calendar year.

    • Unused paid sick and safe must be carried over to the following calendar year; however, no tier three employer is required to allow employees to carry over more than 72 hours of paid sick and safe time.

Employees working for a covered employer begin accruing paid sick and safe leave immediately upon hire, but may not use the time until after 180 days of employment. No employer, regardless of the tier, is required to pay out earned and unused paid sick and safe time to an employee upon separation from the company.

Third, covered employers already offering "combined or universal” paid time off policies such as PTO are not required to provide additional time off as long the current paid time offered is available to employees for the same purposes and under the same conditions, such as the accrual, usage and carryover provisions. The only exception to this is for tier three employers, which requires employers to allow no less than 108 hours of paid time off per calendar year, and a minimum carry-over of 108 hours. What is unclear is how this will apply to employers who offer separate sick and vacation policies. As it currently reads, the above noted exception only applies to employers who have combined or universal paid leave policies, indicating that employers with separate sick and vacation policies will still need to offer additional paid sick and safe time to comply with this ordinance.

Finally, the ordinance also has specific requirements for employee requests and notice for use and allows employers to request documentation verifying the need for leave. Covered employers are also required to provide notice to employees specifying the details of paid "sick and safe” time. The Seattle Office for Civil Rights will be publishing a poster and model notice for employers.

For employers in Oregon, if you have more than four employees (no matter where they’re located) and at least one employee performing more than 240 hours of work in a calendar year inside the city limits of Seattle, you may be required to comply with this ordinance. Although the law will not take effect until September 2012, savvy employers will start planning now to ensure compliance as the ordinance is fairly complex.

A full version of the new ordinance is available at: www.seattle.gov/council/issues/paid_sick_leave/attachments/201109_cb117216substitute.pdf

If you have any questions, need assistance in planning or drafting your policy, contact Cascade. We are happy to help you.

 

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