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Complying with Washington PTO Laws (2024 Update): A Guide for Businesses

Your employees have more rights than those provided to them by company policies. Washington state PTO laws are shaped by federal and state regulations, providing employees access to various leave types, including vacation, sick leave, and special-purpose leaves. WA PTO laws serve the dual purpose of protecting employee welfare and fostering a productive and healthy workforce.

If you run a business in Washington or operate in the state, this guide will help you explore the various aspects of PTO in Washington and highlight the federal regulations, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). 

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that applies nationwide, including to all employers in Washington. It applies to employers with 50 or more employees. Under FMLA, all eligible employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for specific family and medical reasons. FMLA is an umbrella provision that includes maternal and paternal leave, protections under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, child care leave, and family illness leave.

To be eligible for FMLA, employees must:

  • Work for an employer with 50 or more employees. This includes public agencies, schools, and private-sector employers. 
  • Have worked for the employer for at least 12 months.
  • Have at least 1,250 hours of service over the past 12 months.
  • Work at a location with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius.

There are certain leaves included within FMLA:

Maternal and Paternal Leave

Employers must offer eligible employees maternal or paternal time off for a child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement. Employees take maternal/paternal leave within one year of the child’s birth or placement, and it can be taken intermittently or as a continuous block of time.

Under this provision, parents can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off for prenatal care, pregnancy complications, childbirth, and recovery or adoption or welcome a child into foster care.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Pregnancy Disability Act

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. The act mandates that no employer can treat a pregnant employee unfavorably regarding hiring, firing, promotions, job assignments, or benefits. It also has provisions for reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees, such as light duty or temporary reassignment, similar to employees with other medical conditions.

The Pregnancy Disability Act requires employers to provide employees with pregnancy-related disabilities the same benefits as those with other temporary disabilities. This includes access to sick leave, modified work duties, or other reasonable accommodations. 

Child Care Leave

FMLA also covers child care leave, allowing parents to take time off to care for a child with a serious health condition. As per FMLA, serious health is an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves either inpatient care or continuing treatment by a healthcare provider. 

Family Illness Leave

In Washington, all employers must offer paid family and medical leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition. This provision recognizes the importance of family support during medical crises and gives employees the flexibility to fulfill their caregiving responsibilities.

Under this provision, an employee can take family illness leave for immediate family members, including:

Spouses: Legal spouses, including same-sex spouses.

Children: Biological, adopted, or foster children, stepchildren, legal wards, or children for whom the employee stands in loco parentis (acting as parents).

Parents: Biological, adoptive, step, or foster parents, or individuals who stood in loco parentis to the employee as a child.

Employers don’t have to bear the cost of this paid vacation as a state fund funds it. Employers pay 27.24%, and employees pay 72.76% of the contribution to the fund. However, smaller businesses (with less than 50 employees) are not required to pay the premium; the state contributes its share. 

Paid Time Off in Washington

Washington does not have a mandatory paid time off provision, and policies regarding it are at employers’ discretion. The accrual systems and roll-over policies for these types of leave vary depending on the employer and the type of leave.

Employers in Washington are under no legal obligation to use an accrual system for PTO. They allow employees to earn a certain amount of leave based on their length of service or hours worked, which depends on their policies. Some employers also use a fixed accrual rate per pay period, such as a certain number of hours for every week or month worked, which ensures that employees steadily accumulate leave.

Washington is among the states that allow a use-it-or-lose-it policy. This means employers have no obligation to allow employees to roll over unused PTO from one year to the next. Still, many employers allow the rollover of accrued PTO as a benefit. The roll-over policy varies by employer and is often outlined in the employee handbook or employment contract.

Paid Leaves in Washington

Washington has established several paid leave laws that benefit employees, covering situations like sickness, family care, and medical emergencies. Employers in the state should be aware of the paid leaves they must provide their employees for compliance.

Sick Leave

FMLA applies to all employers and provides employees with the right to up to 12 weeks of unpaid sick leave. Washington has paid sick leave laws throughout the state. However, the cities of Seattle and Tacoma have their policies. 

Under Washington’s paid sick leave law, employees earn at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. Employers can use the paid sick time for their illness, injury, health condition, or a family member. It can also be used for time off to deal with domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Additionally, employers must allow employees to carry over up to 40 hours of unused paid sick leave into the following year. 

Seattle’s Paid Sick and Safe Time (PSST)

Seattle has the Paid Sick and Safe Time (PSST) ordinance, which applies to employers with employees who work within Seattle city limits. Under the PSST provision, the amount of paid sick leave accrual varies based on the employer’s size. 

All employers with up to 49 employees must provide one hour of leave for every 40 hours worked. They must allow a maximum accrual of 40 hours per year.

Employers with 50 to 249 employees must provide one hour of PSST for every 40 hours worked. Such employees can accrue up to 56 hours annually.

Employers with 250 or more employees must provide one hour of leave for every 30 hours worked, with a maximum accrual of 72 hours annually.

PSST covers absences covered under Washington paid sick law, including illness, health conditions, domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

Tacoma’s Paid Sick Leave

Employers in Tacoma must provide paid sick leave to their employees who work more than 80 hours in a year. According to Tacoma’s paid sick leave law, employees earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, up to a maximum accrual of 24 hours annually. Employees can carry over 40 hours of unused leave into the following year.

Washington State Family and Medical Leave

Washington’s Family Leave Insurance program, also known as Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML), provides paid leave benefits for family and medical reasons. Under this program, all eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of paid leave annually.

PFML can be used for:

  • Bonding with a newborn or newly placed child.
  • Caring for a family member with a serious health condition.
  • Recovering from the employee’s serious health condition.
  • Dealing with a military exigency arising from a family member’s deployment.

The PFML benefits can be extended up to 16 weeks if there are more than one qualifying family and medical reasons. It can be up to 18 weeks of paid leave for female employees who face pregnancy complications that result in incapacity.

The Washington Family Care Act is another provision that protects the rights of employees for paid sick time off to take care of their children, a spouse or domestic partner, a parent/ parent-in-law, or a grandparent. 

Parental Leave

Under Washington’s PFML program, new parents are allowed to take paid parental leave for the birth or placement of a child. This leave is available to mothers and fathers, supporting bonding and family well-being. All parents can take up to 12 weeks time off in the first year after child’s birth or placement under parental leave.

Organ Donorship Leave 

Executive agencies in Washington must provide paid organ donorship leave for employees who donate an organ or bone marrow. Private employers have no obligation, and it depends on their company policies to offer leave for donorship. 

Organ donorship leave allows state employees to take up to 7 days of paid time off for bone marrow donation and up to 30 days of paid leave for organ donation.

Vacation Leave

No federal or state law in Washington requires employers to offer paid vacation time to employees. The decision is at the employer’s discretion. While no state law requires employers to provide vacation leave, many employers offer this benefit to attract and retain employees.

Military Leave

Military leave in Washington is governed by the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and the local state law. 

Under USERRA, employees can take up to 5 years of unpaid time off for active service in the military. Employees are obligated to provide time off for military service. Also, such employees must continue to receive group health coverage for up to 24 months. 

Washington’s state law protects employees who are reservists or members of the National Guard.

Voting Leave in Washington

Employers in Washington are not obligated to provide time off, paid or unpaid, for voting. However, most employers still allow time for employees who do not get enough time outside work hours to vote. 

Jury Duty Leave

Jury duty is an important civic responsibility, and Washington protects employees called to serve as jurors. The state requires employers to provide unpaid leave for jury duty. The duration of the leave can be as long as the duty requires. Employees do not have to pay for jury duty leave, as the court pays jurors $10 a day. 

Community Service Leave

Private employers are not required to offer community service leave. However, all state employers must. State employees can use community service leave to participate in community-building activities and assistance responsibilities. 

Bereavement Leave

There is no federal or state law on bereavement leave in Washington. Employers can provide paid or unpaid bereavement leave to employees in difficult times at their sole discretion.

Domestic Violence Leave

Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking can ask for domestic violence leave without any fear of retaliation from their employers. Domestic violence leave can be counted against paid time off or unpaid.

Affected employees can use domestic violence leave for: 

  • Legal or law enforcement assistance and court proceedings
  • Seeking psychological and medical help
  • Assistance from social service programs
  • Plan for their safety 
  • Relocating 

Employers' Responsibilities for Implementing a Paid Sick Leave Policy and Requirements

Employers must create comprehensive policies to ensure transparency and compliance with the implementation of the paid sick leave policy. 

The policies must be communicated with the employees. 

Here are the details to include:  

  • Accrual Rates
  • How employees can use paid sick leave 
  • Carryover details and how to apply for roll-over 

All existing and new policies must meet the minimum requirements of state laws or local ordinances. 

Even if you do not have a written paid sick leave policy in place, you must meet the minimum state requirement, which is providing one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked to all eligible employees.

In addition to comprehensive policies, employees should ensure accurate accrual tracking using tools like Truein. Employers in Washington must also maintain detailed records of paid sick leave and report this information as required by the state.

Payout Requirements on Termination in Washington

Washington has no laws on PTO payouts upon termination from service, whether through resignation or retirement. Employers are not legally required to pay out accrued, unused vacation time upon termination unless their policies or employment contracts state otherwise. Employers must maintain clear policies regarding the payout of accrued, unused vacation upon termination to avoid misunderstandings and potential disputes.

How can Truein help with Paid time off management?

Truein is a robust cloud-based time and attendance management solution that offers powerful PTO management features. From streamlining PTO tracking, seamless requests, advanced scheduling, and enhanced compliance to improved employee experience, employers can achieve it all with Truein.

Truein allows businesses to centralize their PTO tracking, eliminating the need for manual tracking or multiple systems, reducing errors, and saving time. Employees can view their real-time PTO balances, enabling them to plan their time off effectively. With the employee attendance and leave management system, employers can automate PTO accrual based on the company’s policies. It helps improve compliance and reporting for PTO management, helping businesses adhere to legal requirements and maintain accurate records.

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Washington PTO laws include both federal and state regulations. With an array of leave types, including sick leave, family and medical leave, and special-purpose leave, employers must exercise due diligence to ensure compliance. 

Fortunately, with Truein, employers have a partner who shares responsibilities for implementing and managing PTO policies, from tracking accruals and usage to ensuring compliance with legal requirements.

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