The Seattle City Council has passed amendments to Seattle’s Sick and Safe Time Ordinance. As we previewed in another recent Legal Update, these amendments are designed to extend the more favorable Washington Paid Sick Leave provisions to employees covered under the Seattle ordinance. This is significant because the Seattle ordinance covers both exempt and non-exempt employees working in Seattle, while the state law covers only non-exempt employees.

The Seattle amendments will become effective on January 14, 2018. Some of the changes to the Seattle ordinance include:

  • Expanding the definition of “family member” to include an employee’s child of any age, and an employee’s sibling or grandchild;
  • Expanding coverage of the Seattle law to virtually all Seattle employees by changing the definition of a Tier One employer to mean at least one employee;
    • The law previously covered employers with at least four full time equivalents (FTEs);
  • Clarifying that the exemption for new Tier One or Tier Two employers to comply with Seattle’s Sick and Safe Time Ordinance only applies to Seattle’s sick and safe time requirements that are more generous than the statewide requirements (e.g., carry over time for Tier Two employers) because there is no exemption under the Washington Paid Sick Leave Statute;
  • 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 to the following year;
  • Reducing to 90 days the waiting period during which employees may not use accrued sick and safe time after starting employment;
  • Extending the break in service period to 12 months for purposes of reinstating a rehired 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 collective bargaining agreement (CBA) waivers of Seattle’s requirements when the CBA contains provisions that are more generous than the statewide paid sick and safe time law:
    • Seattle’s more generous requirements include Tier Two and Three carry over requirements and Tier Three accrual requirements;
    • This amendment allows these CBA waivers in effect on December 31, 2018, to stay in place until the expiration of the CBA;
  • Requiring employers seeking to extend their waiver until the expiration of the CBA in place on December 31, 2018, to file information on the pertinent CBA with the Office of Labor Standards (OLS);
  • Changing the threshold for employees who occasionally work in Seattle:
    • The threshold for occasional basis employees is currently 240 hours within one year;
    • The amendments allow the OLS Director to define the new threshold in yet to be promulgated rules;
  • 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.

What This Means for Employers With Employees Working in Seattle:

Employers with employees working in Seattle should amend their written paid sick and safe time policies to incorporate these new changes before January 14, 2018. Employers should also note that the Seattle ordinance has always covered exempt employees, but the Washington Paid Sick Leave Statute covers only employees who are non-exempt under the Washington Minimum Wage Act. Employers must therefore carefully draft their policies for compliance with both laws. In the case of conflicts between the state and local laws, an employer must apply the law that is most favorable to employees.

If you have any questions about the proposed amendments (including whether and when you will need to amend your policies), or would like assistance updating your policies, we recommend consulting legal counsel.