A Reminder About Spokane’s Paid Leave Ordinance

2017 is underway, and that means it’s a good time for a reminder for all of our readers who own or manage businesses located in the City of Spokane. The Spokane City Council passed the Earned Sick and Safe Leave ordinance in 2016, SMC Ch. 9.01. With certain exceptions mentioned below, the ordinance requires that all employers in the City of Spokane whose employees work in the City of Spokane to provide paid leave to those employees, effective as of January 1. The requirements described below are minimums, and the ordinance encourages employers to be more generous. Many employers who provide paid time off are already meeting the minimum requirements of the ordinance, but some may need to modify their policies to cover all aspects of the ordinance.

Employees must accrue paid leave of at least one hour of leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 24 hours for employers with fewer than ten employees and 40 hours for employers with ten or more employees. Employees are allowed to roll over unused leave from year-to-year in the same amounts. Alternatively, the employer may “front-load” leave by giving each employee at least the required amount at the beginning of each calendar year.

Employers may provide all-purpose paid time off. All-purpose paid time off must meet the same minimum accrual and usage requirements as required for sick and safe leave under the ordinance.

Each time wages are paid, each employee must be given a statement indicating his or her balance of accrued paid leave hours and the number of paid leave hours used during that calendar year. Records  of each employee’s earned leave accrual and use must be maintained for at least three years.

Employers are not required to pay employees for unused accrued leave when they are terminated, resign, retire or otherwise separate from employment. Employers are also not required to reinstate prior accrued balances when an employee is rehired after a separation from employment.

Certain types of employees are exempt, such as work-study students, seasonal workers, domestic workers, independent contractors, and those performing “construction work.” Occasional workers, working less than 240 hours per year within the City of Spokane, are also exempt. Note that the definition of “construction work” is drawn from a section of the Washington Administrative Code, and is defined separately from “maintenance,” so custodial and routine maintenance work are not included. Also note that independent contractor status is very tricky to achieve in Washington, and the penalties can be significant for treating as independent contractors workers who should be treated as employees.

The notice available for download at this link must be displayed in a prominent location in the workplace.

A violation of the ordinance is a class 1 civil infraction, which currently carries a penalty of $260. There are circumstances in which the penalty may be doubled or tripled, such as repeated violations and retaliatory actions.

If you’re not currently meeting the requirements of the Earned Sick and Safe Leave ordinance, act now to get into compliance!

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