Seattle employers need to know about changes and proposed changes to Seattle law

Seattle Automatic Minimum Wage Increases. Effective January 1, 2018, the Seattle minimum wage will be adjusted for inflation.

The City of Seattle is raising the minimum wage with inflation adjustments and annual increases required by the Minimum Wage Ordinance as follows:

  • The minimum wage for Large Employers (501 or more employees) will be increased to:
    • $15.45 per hour if the employer does not pay toward the employee’s medical benefits.
    • $15.00 per hour if the employer does pay toward the employee’s medical benefits.
  • The minimum wage for Small Employers (500 or fewer employees) will be increased to:
    • $14.00 per hour if employer does not pay at least $2.50 per hour toward the employee’s medical benefits and/or the employee does not earn at least $2.50 per hour in tips.
    • $11.50 per hour if the employer does pay at least $2.50 per hour toward the employee’s medical benefits and/or the employee does earn at least $2.50 per hour in tips.

Proposed Amendments to the Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance. On November 14, the Seattle Office of Labor Standards (OLS) proposed amendments to Seattle’s Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance and the Minimum Wage Ordinance Rules. The Seattle City Council is expected to vote on the proposed amendments in December.

Employers with exempt employees in Seattle should be aware of proposed amendments to the Seattle Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance. Be on the lookout for possible adopted changes before January 1, 2018.

Some of the proposed changes may affect exempt employees, who are not covered by the Washington Paid Sick Leave Statute, including:

  • Expanding the definition of “family member” to include an employee’s child of any age, sibling or grandchild;
  • Changing the definition of a Tier One employer from employers with at least four FTEs to employers with at least one employee;
  • Eliminating caps on sick and safe time usage;
  • Requiring employers to carry over at least 40 hours of an employee’s unused sick and safe time;
  • Reducing the waiting period during which employees may not use accrued sick and safe time so that new employees can begin to use accrued sick and safe leave 90 days from the employee’s start of employment;
  • Extending the break in service period to 12 months for purposes of reinstating an employee’s previously accrued and unused sick and safe time;
  • Clarifying that employers must allow employees to use sick and safe time in the smallest increment in which compensation is tracked;
  • Adding that an employer’s verification requirements may not impose an unreasonable burden or expense on the employee;
  • Enacting an expiration date of December 31, 2018 for CBA waivers of requirements that are more generous than the statewide paid sick and safe time requirements (i.e., Tier Two and Three carry over and Tier Three accrual);
  • Changing the threshold for occasional basis employees in Seattle (the threshold for coverage will be defined in the rules);
  • Clarifying that the Tier One and Tier Two new employer exemption only applies to paid sick and safe time requirements that are more generous than the statewide requirements (i.e.,carry over time for Tier Two employers); Eliminating the exemption for employees participating in a work study program; and
  • Imposing new notification and recordkeeping requirements on employers, including what must be included in a written paid sick and safe time policy.

Proposed Amendments to the Minimum Wage Act Rules. The City of Seattle is considering amendments to the Minimum Wage Act. Some of the proposed changes to the rules are as follows:

  • Clarifying the definition of an occasional basis employee;
  • Removing the definition of “work study” because the work study exemption was eliminated from the ordinance; and
  • Stating that service charges paid to an employee may count as commissions when calculating employee earnings if the service charges are above the state minimum wage. 

Five Quick Steps to Do Now: 

  1. Update your Seattle minimum wage to take effect January 1, 2018.
  2. Watch for the Seattle City Council to vote on the amendments in December 2017. 3.
  3. Determine whether the Washington Paid Sick Leave Statute or Seattle’s Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance provides “more generous” benefits for your employees, and comply with the more generous provisions;
  4. Be ready to review your written policy governing paid sick and safe time and determine if any additional changes will have to be made due to the proposed amendments; and
  5. Comply with the Washington Paid Sick Leave Statute revisions regarding what pay can be counted towards an employee’s minimum wage.

For more information on the updates and proposed amendments, including a schedule of trainings on these updates, visit the OLS website. For additional resources on the Washington Paid Sick Leave Statute, refer to our previous updates on the topic: