Washington State Paid Sick Leave: Employer Requirements

Posted by Alesha Struthers Jul 21, 2021

Washington state paid sick leave is a crucial topic for employers to understand. In 2018, the new sick leave law in Washington state went into effect. Known as the Washington Paid Sick Leave law, employers are now required to provide a minimum amount of sick leave. Employers have many questions regarding paid sick leave. In this post, employers will learn what the sick leave law actually says, the definition of family members under the law, whether an employee must provide a doctor's note, what is required of small businesses, whether employees can cash it out instead of using it, and how employers can keep up with sick leave accrual.

This blog post is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not a substitution for legal advice for your business. To get specific advice for your business related to Washington state paid sick leave or other employment law or HR matters, schedule a free consultation with The Law Offices of Alesha Struthers now.  

Sick Leave in Washington State: What Does the Law Say?

Washington state paid sick leave is codified in several areas under RCW. For example, “employee” is defined in RCW 49.46.010. Employers are required to provide sick leave to an employee who meets the legal definition which is any individual who is hired by an employer. It includes individuals who are classified as a “hand harvest laborer and paid on a piece rate basis…who has been employed in agriculture less than thirteen weeks during the preceding calendar year…”

RCW 49.46.020 explains the minimum wage requirements and paid sick leave. This includes providing paid sick leave as explained in both RCW 49.46.200 and 49.46.210.

Under RCW 49.46.200, employers must provide sick leave because it is “in the public interest to provide reasonable paid sick leave for employees to care for the health of themselves and their families.” RCW 49.46.210 goes on to state that employees “shall accrue at least one hour of paid sick leave for every forty hours worked as an employee.” Employers are also required to pay their employees their normal hourly rate during the time that they take off of work.

For businesses in the construction industry, RCW 49.46.180 is crucial. Construction workers who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement are excluded from the Washington state sick leave law.  

Definition of Family Members for Washington State Sick Leave

The definition of family members for Washington state's sick leave law is found in 49.46.210. It is defined as a child (whether biological, adopted, foster, stepchild, or a child the employee takes care of as if they were the parent or to whom they are the legal garden of) regardless of the child's age or whether they are the employee's dependent, a parent (whether biological, adopted, foster, step-parent, or the legal guardian of the employee or the employee's spouse or registered domestic partner, or someone who acted as the employee's parent when the employee was a minor), their spouse or registered domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling.

Are Employees Required to Provide a Doctor's Note?

It is not specifically stated that employers may not request a doctor's note in certain instances. However, if an employer plans to institute a sick leave doctor's note requirement, this is known as “verification.” Under the Washington state sick leave law, if an employer requires verification, they must create a written sick leave policy that includes their verification policy. The sick leave policy must be available to employees at any time.

Washington State Sick Leave for Small Businesses: What Is Required?

Washington state sick leave is still required of small businesses if they have employees. Under the state's paid sick leave law, if a small business has an individual who is classified as an employee if they worked for the small business for at least 90 days.

Washington State Sick Leave: Can Employees Cash Out?

Employees who have more than 40 sick leave hours at the end of the year may cash out the extra hours. They can carry-over up to 40 hours of their unused leave into the next year. Employees may also cash out their unused sick leave if they choose to leave their job since it is time that they earned. There is no requirement for them to do so unless there is a requirement because of a local ordinance or collective bargaining agreement.

Related: Washington State Domestic Violence Leave: What Employees Need to Know

Keeping Up with Washington State Sick Leave Accrual

As an employer, keeping accurate Washington state sick leave accrual records is imperative. It is required of employers to keep track of sick leave accrual and use for each employee. Employers must also provide a notice to each employee how much sick leave they've accrued, how much sick leave they've used, and their sick leave balance each month.

Free Consultation for Employers: Washington State Sick Leave Law

The Washington state sick leave law can be confusing for employers. The Law Offices of Alesha Struthers is here to help employers better understand their obligations and their rights. To learn more about how your business can be better prepared to work with your employees, schedule a free consultation with The Law Offices of Alesha Struthers now!

Disclaimer: This publication is not legal advice. It is intended as legal information only. For legal advice specific to your needs, contact the Law Offices of Alesha Struthers, PS at 800-972-0411.

Posted July 2021