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Overview of Paid Sick Time Laws in the United States:

Updated on October 26, 2018

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Who is covered? Workers employed by an employer in Washington are covered. Workers exempt from the state minimum wage law are also exempt from the paid sick time law. See for a detailed list of exemptions.
Can sick time be used to care for loved ones? Yes: children; parents; parents of a spouse or registered domestic partner; spouses; registered domestic partners; grandparents; grandchildren; and siblings
How is “child” defined? Biological, adopted, or foster children, stepchildren, or a child to whom the employee stands in loco parentis, is a legal guardian, or is a de facto parent, regardless of age or dependency status.
Can sick time be used for specific “safe time” purposes (related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking)? Yes, when the worker or the worker’s family member (for safe time purposes: a child, spouse, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, or person with whom the worker has a dating relationship) is the victim
Can sick time be used under the law to bond with a new child and/or deal with a family member’s death? Note: It is possible that other laws, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act or a state equivalent, could provide eligible workers with unpaid leave for these purposes. No
Can sick time be used when a worker’s place of work or child’s school/place of care is closed by public health officials for a public health emergency? Yes, when closed for any health-related reasons (not only public health emergencies).
Rate at which workers earn paid sick time? 1 hour for every 40 hours worked
Do workers have different sick time-related rights based on the size of their employer? If so, based on what employer-size threshold(s)? No
Amount of paid sick time that can be earned under the law per year? (Note: All of these paid sick time laws make it clear that these laws establish a minimum requirement, and employers can provide greater or more generous paid sick time benefits to their workers.) No explicit cap on how much sick time can be earned or used in a year. However, as described below, employers are not required to allow a worker to carry over more than 40 hours of unused paid sick time a year.
When do workers begin to earn paid sick time? Although not specified, reads as if accrual begins at the commencement of employment. Workers are entitled to use accrued paid sick time beginning on the 90th calendar day after the commencement of employment.
Does unused sick time carry forward to the subsequent year? Workers are entitled to carry forward unused paid sick time, except that an employer is not required to allow a worker to carry over paid sick time in excess of 40 hours.
Private Right of Action to go to Court? Yes
Are there waivers/ exemptions for workers covered by a valid Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)? No specific waivers or exemptions for workers covered by a CBA
What Agency or Official Enforces the Law? Washington Department of Labor and Industries
For the statewide paid sick time laws: can cities in the state pass paid sick time laws that are broader than the state law? Yes
Statutory Citation(s) Washington Initiative No. 1433 (to be codified in Wash. Rev. Code Chapter 49.46)
Additional Notes Washington State voters overwhelmingly approved a paid sick time law on November 8, 2016. The law took effect on January 1, 2017, and the right to begin earning paid sick time began on January 1, 2018. The statewide law in Washington explicitly states that it establishes minimum requirements on sick time and does not preempt or limit other laws or policies that provide for greater accrual or use of paid sick time. Therefore, the local paid sick time laws in Seattle, Tacoma, and SeaTac (described in the Additional Sick Time Laws page) remain in effect, and other localities in Washington may continue to pass broader paid sick time laws. Note that following passage of the statewide sick time law, the City of Spokane amended its sick time law, passed by the Spokane City Council in January 2016, to sunset on December 31, 2017.
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