Paid sick leave: What contractors need to know
In November, when voters passed Initiative 1433, commonly known as the minimum-wage initiative, they were also approving a provision in I-1433 that requires employers to provide paid sick leave.
The initiative requires all employers to provide paid sick leave with no exceptions for the construction industry and with no explicit language allowing waivers provided through collective bargaining agreements. The most important point for AGC members to keep in mind right now is that the paid sick leave requirements do not take effect until Jan. 1, 2018 – a year from now. Thus, no action is required at this time.
During 2017, AGC will be working with L&I on the rules to implement the sick leave law. There will be differences between the practices of union and open shop contractors that will be kept in mind as these rules are developed. A task force of AGC member contractors and attorneys has been established to help guide this process.
However, rulemaking may provide little opportunity to alter the main provisions of I-1433 as passed by voters, such as the requirement to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked (see the full paid sick leave language from I-1433 below). AGC will also consider options to alter the initiative via legislation. This is an uphill climb as state law requires a two-thirds majority in both the State Senate and House, plus the Governor’s signature, to change a voter-passed initiative within two years of its passage.
Previous paid sick leave ordinances passed by the cities of Seattle and Tacoma provided for a waiver of the paid sick leave law via collective bargaining agreements, and all the trades with whom AGC negotiates agreed to waive paid sick leave. The City of Spokane went even farther with its paid sick-leave ordinance by exempting the construction industry altogether. However, the paid sick leave section of I-1433, which contains no such exceptions, will supersede all those local ordinances when it takes effect on Jan. 1, 2018.
For more information, contact AGC Chief Lobbyist Jerry VanderWood, 360.352.5000.
Below is the paid sick leave section as passed via I-1433:
PART II ESTABLISHING FAIR LABOR STANDARDS BY REQUIRING EMPLOYERS TO PROVIDE PAID SICK LEAVE TO EMPLOYEES
NEW SECTION. Sec. 4. The demands of the workplace and of families need to be balanced to promote public health, family stability, and economic security. It is in the public interest to provide reasonable paid sick leave for employees to care for the health of themselves and their families. Such paid sick leave shall be provided at the greater of the newly increased minimum wage or the employee's regular and normal wage.
NEW SECTION. Sec. 5. (1) Beginning January 1, 2018, every employer shall provide each of its employees paid sick leave as follows:
(a) An employee shall accrue at least one hour of paid sick leave for every forty hours worked as an employee. An employer may provide paid sick leave in advance of accrual provided that such front-loading meets or exceeds the requirements of this section for accrual, use, and carryover of paid sick leave.
(b) An employee is authorized to use paid sick leave for the following reasons: (i) An absence resulting from an employee's mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; to accommodate the employee's need for medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; or an employee's need for preventive medical care; (ii) To allow the employee to provide care for a family member with a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; care of a family member who needs medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; or care for a family member who needs preventive medical care; and (iii) When the employee's place of business has been closed by order of a public official for any health-related reason, or when an employee's child's school or place of care has been closed for such a reason.
(c) An employee is authorized to use paid sick leave for absences that qualify for leave under the domestic violence leave act, chapter 49.76 RCW. (d) An employee is entitled to use accrued paid sick leave beginning on the ninetieth calendar day after the commencement of his or her employment. (e) Employers are not prevented from providing more generous paid sick leave policies or permitting use of paid sick leave for additional purposes. (f) An employer may require employees to give reasonable notice of an absence from work, so long as such notice does not interfere with an employee's lawful use of paid sick leave. (g) For absences exceeding three days, an employer may require verification that an employee's use of paid sick leave is for an authorized purpose. If an employer requires verification, verification must be provided to the employer within a reasonable time period during or after the leave. An employer's requirements for verification may not result in an unreasonable burden or expense on the employee and may not exceed privacy or verification requirements otherwise established by law. (h) An employer may not require, as a condition of an employee taking paid sick leave, that the employee search for or find a replacement worker to cover the hours during which the employee is on paid sick leave. (i) For each hour of paid sick leave used, an employee shall be paid the greater of the minimum hourly wage rate established in this chapter or his or her normal hourly compensation. The employer is responsible for providing regular notification to employees about the amount of paid sick leave available to the employee. (j) Unused paid sick leave carries over to the following year, except that an employer is not required to allow an employee to carry over paid sick leave in excess of forty hours. (k) This section does not require an employer to provide financial or other reimbursement for accrued and unused paid sick leave to any employee upon the employee's termination, resignation, retirement, or other separation from employment. When there is a separation from employment and the employee is rehired within twelve months of separation by the same employer, whether at the same or a different business location of the employer, previously accrued unused paid sick leave shall be reinstated and the previous period of employment shall be counted for purposes of determining the employee's eligibility to use paid sick leave under subsection (1)(d) of this section. (2) For purposes of this section, "family member" means any of the following: (a) A child, including a biological, adopted, or foster child, stepchild, or a child to whom the employee stands in loco parentis, is a legal guardian, or is a de facto parent, regardless of age or dependency status; (b) A biological, adoptive, de facto, or foster parent, stepparent, or legal guardian of an employee or the employee's spouse or registered domestic partner, or a person who stood in loco parentis when the employee was a minor child; (c) A spouse; (d) A registered domestic partner; (e) A grandparent; (f) A grandchild; or (g) A sibling. (3) An employer may not adopt or enforce any policy that counts the use of paid sick leave time as an absence that may lead to or result in discipline against the employee. (4) An employer may not discriminate or retaliate against an employee for his or her exercise of any rights under this chapter including the use of paid sick leave.