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Updates to Washington State’s Sick Leave Laws: April 2024 Update

Effective January 1, 2024, Washington’s legislature modified the paid sick leave statute as it applies to construction workers. The Department of Labor and Industries (the “Department”) subsequently relied on this statutory change to update the regulations governing paid sick leave for all Washington employees. Some employers may find these changes confusing and administratively burdensome.

Key Updates:

  • Construction Workers: New law requires employers to pay out accrued but unused paid sick leave to construction workers upon separation, even if they haven’t met the 90-day minimum employment requirement.
  • Employee Choice: All employees now have the choice to use accrued paid sick leave for qualified purposes. Employers cannot mandate its use.
  • PTO Policies: Employers can offer more generous paid leave (“PTO”), but any leave in excess of the minimum paid sick leave requirements counts as paid sick leave (subject to the same statutory and regulatory protections) unless specific criteria are met:
    • The compliant sick leave portion of the PTO policy meets all paid sick leave requirements independently of any more generous leave provided thereunder;
    • The compliant paid sick leave is tracked separately; and
    • The PTO policy does not require or encourage the employee to use their protected leave before accessing the more generous PTO leave for other purposes (e.g., vacation leave).

Impact and Recommendations:

These changes may add administrative complexity for employers. It’s advisable to:

  • Review paid sick leave and PTO policies for compliance.
  • Seek legal counsel to discuss potential updates, evaluate potential risk, and ensure alignment with the new requirements.
  • Develop clear communication regarding employee leave rights and usage options.

Disclaimer: This information is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult with an attorney for specific legal guidance related to your situation.

Firm Contacts:

Marcia Ellsworth
Kevin Hansen
David Seeley
Lauren Titchbourne

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