As we review the provisions of the new Seattle Paid Sick Leave Ordinance, we thought we’d provide some examples to show some of the issues and complexities of the ordinance.

Anchorage Accounting is an accounting firm with its principal office in Anchorage Alaska.  It has 6 full time employees in Alaska, 2 full time employees in Seattle, and 1 in Spokane.

On November 15, 2012, Sheila, one of its Seattle employees, notifies the company that she must take some time off to find a safe place for herself and her daughter to live because her relationship with her live-in boyfriend has deteriorated and she no longer feels safe living with him.  Sheila requests three paid days off in order to find new housing.

Is Anchorage Accounting required to provide to Sheila three days paid leave in this scenario?  No.

Is Anchorage Accounting required to provide paid sick/safe time off to its Seattle employees?  Yes. Anchorage Accounting meets the minimum size requirements, and must provide an hour of sick/safe paid time off to its Seattle employees for every 40 hours that they work.

Does Sheila’s request qualify as “safe time off” under the Seattle Ordinance?  Yes.  The Seattle Ordinance definition of “safe time off” includes time “For reasons related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking that affect the employee or the employee’s family member”, with “family member” is defined as a child, spouse, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, or person with whom the employee has a dating relationship.”

Is Sheila entitled to three days paid time off?  No.  As of November 15, 2012, Sheila is most likely entitled to only about 11 hours of paid sick/safe leave under the ordinance, as she did not start to accrue sick/safe time until the September 1, 2012 effective date of the ordinance.  Sick/safe time is accrued at the rate of 1 hour for every 40 hours worked.

Note, however, that the employer has the option of providing more generous paid leave benefits than those set forth in the ordinance.  The ordinance sets forth minimums, but does not place limits.  Therefore, depending on the employer’s existing paid leave policy, Sheila may be entitled to other forms of paid leave.

If Sheila’s paid time off request was on November 15, 2013, would Sheila be entitled to such time off?  Yes.  Sheila would be entitled to the three days paid time off, provided she had accrued, and not yet used, sufficient time.

Can Anchorage Accounting require that Sheila provide documentation regarding her requested time off?   No.  The employer may not require documentation for use of paid safe leave unless the employee is absent for more than three consecutive days.  After three consecutive days, an employer may require documentation.

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