A Brief Review: Seattle's Sick and Safe Leave Policy

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Are you aware that there is the recently added chapter 14.16 of the Seattle Municipal Code which mandates paid sick and safe leave for employees working, even occasionally or by telecommunication, within the city limits? As of September 1, 2012, employees accrue paid sick and safe time according to a schedule based on the number of workers employed.

If your company has five or more full-time equivalent employees, with at least one employee who works in Seattle, you must have a written policy allowing sick and safe time to ensure compliance. Now is the time for Seattle-based employers, as well as non-Seattle employers with employees work routinely work in Seattle, to review existing policies.

Which employers are covered?
The new chapter affects non-federal, non-state, and non-county employers in any location with five or more full-time equivalents, and:

  • Full-time, part-time, temporary and occasional-basis employees who perform work inSeattle
  • Employees who telecommute in Seattle
  • Employees who stop in Seattle as a purpose of their work

Employers are divided into tiers based on the number of workers employed: 

General
Information
Small (Tier 1)* Employer Medium (Tier 2)* Employer Large (Tier 3) Employer
Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) 5 – 49 employees 50 – 249 employees 250 or more employees

*Tier 1 and Tier 2 employers are exempt until two years after the date they hired their first employee. 

Which employees are covered?
Employees are covered if they perform full-time, part-time or temporary work within Seattle, and work for an employer with five or more full-time equivalent employees. For employees who work in Seattle only occasionally, they are covered after working 240 hours in Seattle in a calendar year. 

Employees of the federal, state, and county are not covered, nor are students enrolled in a work study program. 

What is the difference between sick leave and safe leave?
“Paid sick time” is accrued hours of paid leave provided to an employee for an absence from work due to illness or preventative care of the employee or a family member. “Paid safe time” is accrued hours of paid leave provided to an employee for an absence from work due to:

  • domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking
  • closure of workplace or a child’s school or place of care by a public official to limit exposure to infectious agent, biological toxin, or hazardous material 

How does time accrual work?

General
Information
         Small (Tier 1)
Employer
          Medium (Tier 2)
Employer
         Large (Tier 3)
Employer
Accrual of paid sick/safe time 1 hr per 40 hours worked 1 hr per 40 hours worked 1 hr per 30 hours worked

How does an employee accrue sick and safe time, and are there any limits?
Accrual began on September 1, 2012, or when the employee hired, whichever is later. Sick and safe time accrues based on the number of hours the employee worked in Seattle, including overtime for employees non-exempt under the FMLA. While employees cannot accrue an unlimited amount of sick or safe time, they are allowed a certain amount of carryover time: 

General
Information
           Small (Tier 1)
Employer
           Medium (Tier 2)
Employer
           Large (Tier 3)
Employer
Use of paid sick/safe time 40 hrs / calendar year 56 hrs / calendar year 72 hrs / calendar year
Carryover of unused paid sick/safe time 40 hrs / calendar year 56 hrs / calendar year 72 hrs / calendar year

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The above is merely a review and should not be relied upon as legal advice.  Contact the attorneys at Helsell Fetterman for information related to notice, documentation, and record keeping requirements, penalties and charges for not complying, coordination with other leave laws, and much more. We are up-to-date on the new requirements and we are ready to review your company’s policies and practices to help it avoid future penalties and charges.


About the Authors

Lauren Parris Watts

Lauren Parris Watts’ practice focuses on representing and advising individual clients and small to medium-sized business clients in risk management, contractual matters, employment and general tort litigation. She counsels clients on a variety of issues, including compensation and severance agreements, non-competition and non-solicitation restrictions, disability accommodations, FMLA and other leave rights and misconduct investigations. She also represents her clients in lawsuits alleging wrongful termination, sexual harassment, retaliation and discrimination.

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