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  • Raemi L. Gilkerson

An Overview of the New Washington Minimum Wage and Paid Sick Leave Requirements

In November 2016, Washington voters passed Initiative 1433, which equates to an increase in the minimum wage and new sick leave requirements.

Below is a summary provided by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries of the initiative and upcoming changes. If you have any questions regarding any of the upcoming changes, feel free to contact us!

Changes to the state minimum wage

The minimum wage will be $11 per hour in 2017

  • The minimum wage applies to all jobs, including agriculture.

  • Employers must pay employees age 16 and older at least $11 per hour in 2017. Employers are allowed to pay 85 percent of the minimum wage to employees under age 16. For 2017, this rate is $9.35 per hour.

  • Seattle, Tacoma, and the City of SeaTac currently have higher minimum wage rates. The local rate applies if it is higher than the state minimum wage rate.

  • The initiative does not change overtime pay requirements.

Future Minimum Wage Changes

  • The minimum wage will increase annually over the next three years: $11.50 in 2018, $12 in 2019, and $13.50 in 2020.

  • Starting Jan. 1, 2021, minimum wage increases will be calculated by L&I using a formula tied to the rate of inflation.

Provisions for Tips and Service Changes

The initiative states that an employer must pay to its employees:

  • All tips and gratuities; and

  • All service charges as defined under RCW 49.46.160, (except those that are itemized as not being payable to the employee or employees servicing the customer.

  • Tips and service charges paid to an employee may not offset the state minimum wage requirement.

New Paid sick leave requirements

Beginning January 1, 2018, employers in Washington will be required to provide their employees with paid sick leave.

Accrual of paid sick leave

  • Paid sick leave must accrue at a minimum rate of one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. This includes part-time and seasonal workers.

  • Paid sick leave must be paid to employees at their normal hourly compensation.

  • Employees are entitled to use accrued paid sick leave beginning on the 90th calendar day after the start of their employment.

  • Unused paid sick leave of 40 hours or less must be carried over to the following year.

  • Employers are allowed to provide employees with more generous carry over and accrual policies.

Employee’s Usage of Sick Leave

  • Employees may use paid sick leave:

  • To care for themselves or a family member.

  • 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.

  • For absences that qualify for leave under the state's Domestic Violence Leave Act.

  • Employers may allow employees to use paid sick leave for additional purposes.

What’s Next

The Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) is developing rules to explain and enforce the new requirements. These rules will include:

  • Procedures for employers to notify their employee(s).

  • Record keeping and reporting requirements regarding paid sick leave.

  • Processes to protect employees from retaliation for the lawful use of paid sick leave.

A public hearing on the draft proposed rules is scheduled on November 8 in Spokane and November 9 in Tumwater. Contact us for more details.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice from Leos & Gilkerson, PLLC or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this Post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a licensed lawyer.

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