This Election Day, voters in Arizona and Washington approved measures requiring employers to provide eligible employees with paid sick leave. These states are the latest to join the ever-expanding patchwork of jurisdictions around the country entitling employees to paid leave for their own medical needs and those of certain family members, among other covered purposes.

Arizona

The Arizona paid sick leave act will go into effect on July 1, 2017. It will require employers with 15 or more employees to allow workers to accrue up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year at a minimum rate of one hour per 30 hours worked. Smaller employers (those with fewer than 15 employees) will be required to allow employees to accrue up to 24 hours of paid leave per year. Employees shall be allowed to carry over unused leave time into the following year unless they are paid out for unused time at the end of the year and frontloaded with at least the minimum number of hours required under the law for immediate use at the start of the following year.

Paid sick leave can be used for:

  • an employee’s own mental or physical illness, injury or health condition, including the need for medical diagnosis, care or treatment, as well as for preventative care;
  • care of a family member with a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition, including the need for medical diagnosis, care or treatment, or for preventative care;
  • closure of the employee’s place of business, or for the employee’s need to care for a child whose school or place of care has been closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency;
  • care for the employee or a family member where health authorities have determined that the employee’s or family member’s presence in the community may jeopardize the health of others due to exposure to a communicable disease; and
  • for covered purposes relating to domestic violence, sexual violence, abuse or stalking.

For purposes of the law, covered family members are defined expansively and include an employee’s: (i) spouse or domestic partner; (ii) child, stepchild, legal ward, one to whom the employee stands in loco parentis or child of a domestic partner; (iii) parent, stepparent, legal guardian or one who stood in loco parentis to the employee as a minor child; (iv) sibling; (v) grandparent; (vi) grandchild; (vii) parent, child, sibling, grandparent or grandchild of a spouse or domestic partner; or (viii) “any other individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.”

For employees hired on or after July 1, 2017, employers may require a 90 day waiting period after commencing employment before employees may use leave under the law (though employees must be allowed to accrue leave during this period). Employees shall be entitled to use leave in the smaller of hourly increments or the smallest increment the employer’s payroll system uses to account for absences or use of other time. For absences of three or more consecutive work days, employers may require reasonable documentation that the leave was used for a purpose covered under the law.

Employers shall not be required to pay out accrued but unused sick leave upon termination of employment. However, employees who are rehired within 9 months of separation from the company must have their unused sick leave reinstated and available for use immediately upon the start of re-employment.

Employers will be required to provide written notice to employees of their rights under the law by July 1, 2017 and on the commencement of employment thereafter. Employers will also be required to provide employees with regular notice in their paychecks (either on the paystub itself or in an attachment) of: (i) the amount of paid sick leave they have earned; (ii) the amount of leave they have taken during the year; and (iii) the amount of pay the employee has received as earned paid sick time.

Washington

The Washington paid sick leave act becomes effective on January 1, 2018 and will apply to all employees covered by the state’s Minimum Wage Act. Covered employees will be entitled to accrue paid leave at a rate of at least one hour for every 40 hours worked. Employees will also be entitled to carry over at least 40 hours of unused sick leave into the following year.

Leave may alternatively be frontloaded under the law. However, the measure as drafted does not provide for a cap on either yearly accrual or usage, and further explicitly states that carryover is required even in the case of a frontloading framework. As a result, frontloading sick leave may be challenging—particularly in the case of hourly employees with potentially variable schedules—as employers will be required to ensure that the amount of time that is frontloaded meets or exceeds the leave due to the employee based on the number of hours actually worked in a given year.

Paid sick leave can be used for the following purposes:

  • an employee’s own mental or physical illness, injury or health condition, including the need for medical diagnosis, care or treatment, as well as for preventative care;
  • care of a family member with a mental or physical illness, injury or health condition, including the need for medical diagnosis, care or treatment, or for preventative care;
  • closure of the employee’s place of business, or for the employee’s need to care for a child whose school or place of care has been closed by order of a public official due to a public health emergency; and
  • for covered purposes relating to domestic violence.

For purposes of the law, covered family members include an employee’s: (i) spouse or registered domestic partner; (ii) child, stepchild, legal ward or one to whom the employee stands in loco parentis or as a “de facto parent”; (iii) parent, stepparent, legal guardian (or that of a spouse or registered domestic partner) or one who stood in loco parentis to the employee as a minor child; (iv) sibling; (v) grandparent; or (vi) grandchild.

Similar to the Arizona measure, employers may require a 90 day waiting period after commencing employment before employees may use leave under the law (though employees must be allowed to accrue leave during this period). In addition, for absences of three or more consecutive work days, employers may require verification that the leave was used for a purpose covered under the law. Unlike Arizona, however, Washington’s law does not explicitly provide for maximum usage increments.

Also similar to Arizona, Washington employers shall not be required to pay out accrued but unused sick leave upon termination of employment. However, employees who are rehired within 12 months of separation from the company must have their unused sick leave reinstated, and any period of prior employment must be counted toward the 90 day waiting period that would otherwise be in effect for new employees, as discussed above.

Employers will be required to provide regular notification to employees about the amount of paid sick leave available to the employee, though the act does not specify the manner in which such notice must be provided.