Seattle updates its paid sick and safe time law in response to new state paid sick leave requirements.

Seattle updates its paid sick and safe time law in response to new state paid sick leave requirements.

Seattle has had a paid sick leave ordinance in place since 2012 that requires employers with four or more full-time employees to provide workers with paid sick leave to care for themselves or a family member. Seattle has updated that law to align with Washington state’s new paid sick and safe leave law which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. Here are important aspects of the updated city ordinance as well as resources for understanding both state and local requirements.

Seattle’s law now applies to all employees.  Washington’s new paid sick leave law applies to all non-exempt employees under the new law, and there is no exception for business size. Seattle paid sick and safe time ordinance goes beyond that law to apply to both exempt and overtime exempt employees at companies of all sizes. For exempt employees, employers are not required to credit paid sick and safe time beyond a 40-hour work week.

Seattle’s waiting period is now 90 days. In keeping with state law, Seattle’s ordinance was updated to apply a 90-day waiting period from hire before using paid sick and safe time. This is a change from the earlier 180-day waiting period requirement. Accrual begins on Jan. 1, 2018 or upon hire on or after that date.

Large employers continue to have a higher accrual requirement. Under state law, employees accrue sick leave at 1 hour for every 40 hours worked. Tier one employers in Seattle must continue to provide 1 hour for every 30 hours worked.

There is now no cap on accrual or usage. State law prohibits caps on an employee’s annual use of paid sick or safe leave, and Seattle’s law has been updated to reflect this.

The definition of family is expanded.  Seattle paid sick leave can be used to care for a child of any age, grandchild, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent or sibling.

Employees cannot be required to find someone to cover a shift. State law explicitly prohibits holding employees responsible for covering their shift, and Seattle has formalized this in its updated ordinance.

Sick leave hours cannot be deducted for shift swaps. Seattle no longer has an “eating-and-drinking-establishment exception” which allowed those employers to offer a shift swap instead of time off and still deduct paid sick leave hours from the employee’s bank. Mutually agreed upon shift swaps are still allowed.

Waivers are being phased out. Seattle’s 2012 sick leave law allowed employers and employees to collectively bargain paid sick leave. Waivers are no longer viable, except for provisions of the Seattle law that are more generous than the state’s new requirements (e.g., the more generous accrual rate for large size employers). However, even this exception will disappear on December 31, 2018.

Increments of use must match how compensation is tracked. Employees can use PSST in hourly increments or the smallest increment in which compensation is tracked.

Additional details on Seattle changes with regard to occasional basis employees, breaks in service and notification are available here.




Seattle Office of Labor Standards

Seattle Office of Labor Standards chart on 2018 updates

Department of Labor & Industries Employer Resource Center for Paid Sick Leave

Washington Hospitality Association’s Paid Sick Leave Toolkit



Department of Labor & Industry will hold weekly paid sick leave law webinars in January and February. Learn more here.

Seattle’s Office of Labor Standards is holding webinars on 2018 labor standard updates on Jan. 11, 17 and 22. Learn more here.

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