On September 1, 2012, Seattle joined a growing list of cities and states requiring employers to provide paid sick and safe time to employees. (For details, see our article, “Seattle Ordinance Requires Businesses to Provide Paid Sick and Safe Days to Workers,” at http://www.jacksonlewis.com/ resources.php?NewsID=3901.) Among the significant administrative burdens generated by the new law was the possibility that private-sector employers with operations located outside of Seattle but whose employees perform work in Seattle (even when working from home) may be liable for leave accrual and entitlement, an imposition that left many non- Seattle employers dumbfounded.
In response to the Seattle law, several competing bills relating to paid sick leave were recently introduced in the Washington State legislature seeking vastly different objectives. Two of the bills (SB 5728 and SB 5726) seek to dampen, if not eliminate outright, the effect of the Seattle ordinance. However, a third bill (SB 5594) has an opposite aim — it seeks to extend paid sick leave benefits to nearly all people working in the State of Washington.
Declaring that the State occupies and preempts the entire field of paid sick leave regulation for private employers within Washington, SB 5728 seeks to repeal the Seattle ordinance and prevent other local governments from enacting any paid sick leave regulation. SB 5728 was not voted on during the regular session, though it has been reintroduced in the ongoing special session.
Less far-reaching is SB 5726, which would place geographic limitations on paid sick and safe leave programs enacted by local governments. This bill provides that no city, town or county may require an employer to provide paid sick leave to an employee unless the employer has a physical location within the local jurisdiction and the employee works at or reports to that physical location at least 85 percent of the hours worked over the course of the calendar year. SB 5726 passed in the Senate by a vote of 29- 20, and it may be brought to the floor in the House of Representatives, where support appears insufficient for passage.
At the other end of the spectrum is SB 5594, modeled on the Seattle ordinance, which seeks to guarantee Seattle’s paid sick leave requirements to nearly all workers in the State. Though the bill was heard in committee, it did not reach a vote. Similar to the other bills, SB 5594 has been reintroduced in the ongoing special session.