How Seattle’s Sick Leave Law Can Affect Your Business

Employee Sick LeaveAs of September 1, 2012, Seattle businesses will be required to provide paid sick and safe time off for their employees.  Think this doesn’t affect your business?  Think again! 

There are several ways a company located outside of Seattle could fall under this ordinance.  We’ve got the info you need!

A breakdown of Seattle’s paid sick leave law:

  • The ordinance requires all businesses with more than four full time employees (FTE) to provide paid time off for sick and safe days to their employees.
  • To count FTEs, companies include fractions of FTEs as well (meaning your part time employees’ hours are added together).
  • Employers with fewer than 250 employees must provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 worked, and those with over 250 must provide one hour of leave for every 30 worked.
  • To get to the four employee threshold, all employees of the company are counted, regardless of where in the world they work.  Therefore, a company with three employees in Florida and one in Seattle will have to comply.

Now you’re starting to see why companies need to understand this new law, even when they’re not based in Seattle!

Examples of ways your business could fall under Seattle’s paid sick leave ordinance:

Perhaps your business is located in Kitsap County and you have no employees permanently working in Seattle — could you ever fall under this ordinance?  The answer to that is yes

Let’s say you’re a Bremerton contractor, and in February you do a four week project in Seattle, and in June, you have a three week project in the city.  As soon as your employees complete 240 hours of work in Seattle within a calendar year (which do not need to be consecutive), they are covered by the ordinance.

Here’s another example:  Your company on Bainbridge hires a web designer living in Seattle and make an agreement that she can telecommute from home two days a week.  After 240 hours worked from home (about 15 weeks), she will qualify to be covered by Seattle’s paid sick leave ordinance.

One more example:  Your company has customers in Seattle and twice a week your salesman spends the day in Seattle calling on them.  Would he be covered?  It appears he would, as he is working in Seattle during those hours.

Here are some of the rules you’ll have to follow:

The ordinance stipulates the number of hours an employee can use per calendar year, and the number of hours they can carry over to the next year.

  • Employees may use their paid time off beginning on the 180th calendar day after they begin employment.
  • The rate of pay for the paid day off must equal whatever it would have been if they’d worked.  For example, if an employee is asked to work an overtime day and calls in sick, their sick day would be compensated at an overtime rate.
  • You may require documentation for use of paid sick or safe time, but only after three consecutive days off.  But be aware that if you do request documentation, say from a healthcare provider, and your company does not offer health insurance, you must pay 50% of the cost for the employee to obtain it (office visit, lab tests, etc.).

The actual rulemaking is still in progress, but you can find detailed information at the website for Seattle’s Office for Civil Rights.  These folks will be administering and enforcing the ordinance.

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