In November 2016, Washington voters approved Initiative 1433, codified as RCW 49.46 and WAC 296-128-600 through 760, which increased the state minimum wage and guaranteed paid sick leave for Washington employees. The Washington Department of Labor and Industries (“L&I”) has completed the rulemaking process and has drafted and recently finalized the regulations which will govern the increased state minimum wage and the paid sick leave. A summary of the regulations are as follows:

Minimum Wage Increase: Washington’s minimum wage requirements will increase incrementally until 2020 at the following rate:

  • $11.00 per hour beginning January 1, 2017
  • $11.50 per hour beginning January 1, 2018
  • $12.00 per hour beginning January 1, 2019
  • $13.50 per hour beginning January 1, 2020
  • Annual adjustment for inflation beginning January 1, 2021

The regulation states that employers must pay all tips to its employees and cannot be counted toward the minimum wage. The law does not clarify or impact mandatory tip pools.

Paid Sick Leave: While there has been some attention to the minimum wage increases the much more discussed section of Initiative 1433 is the mandatory paid sick leave provision for all non-exempt employees.This law is to be liberally construed to carry out the intent of the initiative which is to allow employees to care for themselves and their families. This law is effective January 1, 2018, and will require all Washington employers to review their handbooks and sick leave policies to ensure that they are current and not in violation of the paid sick leave regulations.

The new paid sick leave law has two sections: Employer Requirements and Enforcement. There are many components to this new law which employers must become familiar with, and take action on, including providing all employees with a written sick leave policy and monthly notice of sick time accumulated and used. Some of the new requirements are:

  • All non-exempt employees must be able to earn paid sick leave.
  • Paid sick leave is accrued at a minimum rate of one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked.
  • Paid sick leave may be used (1) to care for themselves or a family member; (2) when the employees’ workplace or their child's school or place of care has been closed by a public official for any health-related reason; and (3) for absences that qualify for leave under Washington’s Domestic Violence Leave Act.
  • Accrual caps prohibited.
  • 40 hours of paid sick leave may be carried over to the next year.
  • Employees must receive written notice of the paid sick leave policy, and monthly notices of the accrual amount, any unused paid sick leave available for use, and paid sick leave reductions.
  • Employers may not retaliate against employees for using accrued, paid sick leave.

Please click here for the link to the chart that provides a complete list of requirements under the new law for both the Employer Requirements and Enforcement sections. The chart should be used solely as a guide and all employers should review the regulation, and seek guidance from employment counsel and/or an L&I representative.