New minimum wage, paid sick leave requirements for Washington

by Cate DeJulio and Stephanie Holstein

Employers in Washington will be required to comply with a new minimum wage and offer paid sick leave beginning January 1, 2018.

Minimum wage

As a result of Initiative Measure (IM) 1433, approved by voters in November 2016, the state’s minimum wage will rise to $11.50 an hour on January 1, 2018, up from the $11 rate that went into effect on January 1, 2017. In 2019, the minimum wage will rise to $12 per hour, and in 2020, it will increase to $13.50. Beginning in 2021, the minimum wage will be adjusted annually to keep up with inflation.

The new rate doesn’t mean the same minimum wage will apply to all employees in the state for three reasons:

  1. The increases won’t necessarily apply to workers who are 17 or younger. The minimum wage for workers under 18 is established by regulation.
  2. Employers are required to pay employees all tips and gratuities (and certain service charges) in addition to the established minimum wage.
  3. The initiative doesn’t override higher local minimum wages. Local minimum wages will continue to apply unless the state minimum wage surpasses them.

Paid sick leave

The paid sick leave component of IM 1433 requires employers to allow employees to accrue at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. Employees may not use accrued sick leave until they have been employed for 90 days. Once 90 days have passed, employees may use leave:

  • For their own illness, injury, or medical treatment;
  • To care for an ill or injured family member;
  • For the closure of their place of business or a child’s school for a health-related reason; and
  • For absences that qualify for domestic violence leave.

Employees using paid sick leave may be required to give reasonable notice, and employers may require verification that employees’ absences are for an authorized purpose if they exceed three days. Employers are permitted to limit the number of hours an employee can carry over each year to 40. Employers aren’t required to pay for sick leave when employment is terminated, but they are required to restore previously accrued sick leave if an employee is rehired within 12 months.

As with the minimum wage, some cities in Washington have their own paid sick leave laws with requirements that differ from the statewide law.

For more information on Washington’s new minimum wage and paid sick leave requirements, see the February and March 2017 issues of Washington Employment Law Letter.

Cate DeJulio and Stephanie Holstein are contributors to Washington Employment Law Letter and attorneys at Perkins Coie LLP in Seattle. They can be reached at cdejulio@perkinscoie.com and sholstein@perkinscoie.com.

About Washington Employment Law Letter:
Excerpted from Washington Employment Law Letter and written by attorneys at the law firm of Perkins Coie LLP. WASHINGTON EMPLOYMENT LAW LETTER is not intended to be and should not be used as a substitute for specific legal advice, since legal opinions may only be given in response to inquiries regarding specific factual situations. If legal advice is required, the services of counsel should be sought. Contact attorneys at Perkins Coie LLP.
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