The Seattle Paid Sick Time and Paid Safe Time Ordinance goes into effect on September 1, 2012.  The Ordinance will require that employers with more than 4 full time equivalent employees provide to employees who work in Seattle specified amounts of accrued, job-protected paid time off for personal illness, family care and other purposes.

Every private sector employer that employs more than four full time equivalent employees, at least one of whom performs work in Seattle, is covered by the law.  All employees who perform their work in Seattle are covered, including part-time, casual and temporary employees, including those who perform 240 or more hours of occasional work in Seattle.

Employees may use accrued leave time for either “sick” leave or “safe” leave.  Sick leave can be used because of an employee’s own illness or medical care, or to allow the employee to care for a family member who is ill or requires medical care. Safe time is broadly defined to include an employee’s absence due to a business closure caused by a public hazard, a school closure caused by a public hazard that affects the employee’s child, or domestic violence affecting the employee, a member of the employee’s family or household, or a person with whom the employee has a current or former dating relationship.

All potentially affected employers should as a best practice review their paid leave policies to assess compliance with the Ordinance.  Nearly every affected employer will need to make changes, either by implementing a paid leave policy, or by amending an existing paid leave policy to bring it into compliance with the Ordinance.

Other important issues that should be considered include:

–  Whether an employer may wish to adopt a paid leave program covered under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to allow the business  to assert an ERISA preemption.

–  For existing paid leave policies that allow cashing out of unused vacation and/or PTO, modifications to bring such policies into compliance with the Seattle ordinance may result in greater leave cash outs than the employer wishes to provide.

–   Employers that use an untracked vacation practice must consider whether that practice complies with the Seattle law, which contemplates that an accrued and tracked benefit will be provided.

–  Confidentiality requirements, including keeping confidential the mere fact an employee’s absence is for a Seattle paid time purpose.

–  How workers who work occasionally in Seattle shall track and accrue leave time.

The Ordinance is detailed and complex. We advise all our clients who are likely to be affected by the Ordinance to consult with us to ensure that their paid time off policies are in compliance with the ordinance well in advance of its effective date.

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