Final Washington State Paid Sick Leave Rules Released

By Kelsey Basten

Published on November 7, 2017

On Oct. 20, 2017, the Washington Department of Labor and Industries released its final paid sick leave rules, which go into effect Jan. 1, 2018.

This makes Washington the seventh state in the U.S. to pass a statewide paid sick leave law.

The new rules add details on:

Covered Employers

The rules now include a definition of “employer” as an individual, partnership, association, corporation, business trust, or any person or group of persons acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee.

Covered Employees

In addition, they define an “employee” as any individual employed by an employer. Although this doesn’t include much detail, it does list individuals who are not considered to be employees:

  • Certain hand harvest laborers
  • Individuals employed in casual labor in or about a private home
  • Any individual employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity or in the capacity of outside salesperson
  • Any newspaper vendor, carrier, or delivery person selling or distributing newspapers on the street, to offices, to businesses, or from house to house and any freelance news correspondent
  • Individuals engaged in forest protection and fire prevention activities
  • Certain individuals employed by a charitable institution
  • Any individual who holds a public elective or appointive office of the state, any county, city, town, municipal corporation or quasi municipal corporation.

Local Level Paid Sick Leave Laws

In the state of Washington, four cities currently have paid sick leave ordinances in place: Seattle, SeaTac, Tacoma and Spokane. The new statewide law explicitly states it will not preempt local jurisdictions from establishing paid sick leave laws that are more favorable to employees than the state law.

Because of this, Tacoma will adjust its paid sick leave requirements based on the new state law. This will also go into effect Jan. 1, 2018. It is unclear if any of the other three local jurisdictions will revise their policies as well.

Frontloading Paid Sick Leave

Frontloading – when employers provide an employee with paid sick leave before it is accrued – is permitted. However, this accrual must be predicted utilizing the accrual rate specified in the law. Employers covered by this law must allow employees to accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked.

Sick Time Payment

The law states employees must be compensated for paid sick leave in their “regular and normal” wage. For example, if an employee is paid $10 an hour on a normal workday, he/she must be paid $10 an hour for paid sick leave. This does not include tips, gratuities, service charges, holiday pay or other premium rates, unless otherwise provided by the employer.

Reasonable Notice by Employees

If an employee’s absence is foreseeable, the employer may require the employee to provide notice at least 10 days in advance. If the absence is unforeseeable, the employer may require notice as soon as possible before the required start of the employee’s shift, unless it is impossible to do so.


The final rules state employers can require an employee to provide verification that his/her paid sick leave was for a covered purpose when it exceeds three days. However, the employer cannot require the employee provide this verification until at least 10 calendar days after the first day of leave.

Suspected Abuse of Paid Sick Leave

If an employer proves an employee for using his/her paid sick leave for an unauthorized event or purpose, the employer can withhold pay.

Employer Notice Requirements

Employers must provide each employee with a written or electronic notice that includes:

  • The amount of paid sick leave accrued
  • Paid sick leave reductions since last notice
  • Any unused paid sick leave time available

This notice must be sent to employees at least once each month.

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