Employers with more than four full-time equivalent employees who have workers in Seattle have until Saturday to be in compliance with the city’s new Paid Sick and Safe Time ordinance. The new rules apply not only to Seattle-based workers, but also employees who perform even occasional work there.

“While it is not often that a local ordinance can have nationwide effects, the Seattle [PSST] … might be just such an ordinance,” says Steve Hopkins, an attorney with the labor and employment law firm Constangy, Brooks & Smith. “For instance, a small manufacturer in Maine whose West Coast sales representative calls on Seattle customers would be required to allow the salesperson to accrue, use, and carry over paid time off based on the time the sales representative was calling on his/her Seattle customers.

“In addition to the monetary consequences to non-Seattle employers, the ordinance could prove to be a logistical nightmare, with employers having to track the amount of time employees occasionally spend in Seattle working, as well as keeping records of the accrual, use, and carryover of such time.”

Under the statute, paid time off is available for:

  • Personal illness or preventative care
  • Illness or preventative care of a family member
  • Survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking
  • Closure of workplace or child care facility by public officials to contain infectious disease

Employers are allowed, but not required, to let employees “cash out” Seattle PSST leave. Except as provided for in collective bargaining agreements, employees cannot waive their right to PSST.
An employer with an existing paid time off policy that includes PSST conditions may only have to amend the PTO policy to include time off for the Seattle PSST events and to ensure that it is providing at least the same levels of accrual, use and carryover of PTO leave.

“It is unlikely Seattle will be the last government entity to enact a paid leave law, and employers must remain vigilant to ensure that they remain in compliance,” Hopkins says.

The Seattle Office of the City Auditor will be sending surveys out to businesses, evaluating the PSST’s early implementation efforts and effects on employers.

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