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Paid Sick Time


Paid Sick Time – Seattle’s New Ordinance

Will Other Cities Follow…?


      Beginning September 1, 2012 Seattle employers must allow employees a minimum number of paid sick time and paid safe time.  In passing this ordinance Seattle becomes just the third city in the country to mandate paid leave for employees to care for themselves or family members when ill and to seek legal or law enforcement assistance for domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.   

The Seattle City Council approved a bill on September 12thmandating paid sick leave at all businesses with at least five full-time employees. Businesses with fewer than five employees are exempt from the ordinance.  Businesses with the equivalent of:

  • 5 to 49 full-timeemployees would have to provide at least five days of paid sick leave per year. Sick leave would accrue at a rate of one hour for every 40 hours worked.
  • 50 to 249 employeeswould have to provide at least seven days paid sick leave per year. Sick leave would accrue at a rate of one hour for every 40 hours worked.
  • 250 or more employeeswould have to provide at least nine days sick leave per year. Sick leave would accrue at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked.
  • Also, businesses less than 2 years oldwould be exempt. There would be a six-month waiting period before workers could start using their accrued paid time off

Start Date. The paid sick time accrual begins on the employee’s first date of employment or the effective date of the ordinance, whichever is later.  Accrued sick time can then be used after their first 180 days of employment. Employees governed by collective bargaining agreement are generally not covered by this ordinance provided their agreements specifically waive the provisions mandated by the ordinance.  As such many collective bargaining agreements may need to be rewritten and negotiated before the ordinance’s effective date.

Pros and Cons. Some are opposing the law as bad policy during a recession, while others (including many employers) praise it as easy to comply with, not adding much in expenses, and better protecting workers (both the sick and the not sick) as well as customers. The Economic Opportunity Institute recently estimated that almost 190,000 people working in Seattle don’t have any paid sick days which they say negatively impacts business productivity, children’s schooling and public health as workers are forced to choose between going to work sick or receiving a pay check.  

Penalties. Penalties for those businesses that violate this ordinance include a civil fine of up to $500.  Employers are also required to notify all employees of this new ordinance and failure to do so can result in an additional fine of up to $250 per violation.   

A copy of the ordinance can be obtained from the Seattle City Clerk’s office by referencing Chapter 14.16 to the Seattle Municipal Code or by searching for Council Bill 117216 on the Seattle City Council Bills and Ordinances page of the seattle.gov webpage.  We hope you find this information helpful and would be happy to discuss any of the above at your convenience.


Robert O. Sailer

Pacific NorthWest Law Group


Telephone: (425-867-0512)    www.pnwlg.com

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