In the midst of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic, the CDC has recommended that everyone take steps to protect themselves and their communities, including avoiding close contact with others. If you have to take time off work sick, what are your legal rights? If your child’s school is closed or your work is closed, can you stay home with your children?
Find out more about your earned paid sick time or earned paid sick leave rights in Tacoma, Washington below. Please note that you may also have an additional right to emergency paid leave for COVID-19 purposes under federal law, as described in more detail here.
Note: to learn about Washington’s statewide paid sick time law, visit here.
1) What does the Tacoma Paid Sick Time law do?
It gives workers sick time that can be used to recover from physical/mental illness or injury; to seek medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care; to care for a family member who is ill or needs medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care; when the worker’s place of business is closed by order of a public official for any health-related reason or to care for a child whose school or childcare provider has been closed by order of a public official; to address certain non-medical needs that may arise if the worker or a family member are victims of domestic violence, a sexual assault, or stalking; or to bereave the death of a family member.
2) Am I covered?
If you work as an employee in Tacoma for more than 80 hours in a year, you are probably covered, whether you are a full-time, part-time, or temporary worker. However, the law does not cover federal and state employees, independent contractors, and single-person businesses.
3) How much sick time can I earn?
You earn 1 hour of sick time for every 40 hours worked. There is no limit on how much leave you can earn, however, your employer isn’t required to allow you to carry over more than 40 hours of paid sick leave per year.
All covered employees are protected against being fired or punished for using or requesting their sick time (including threats, discipline, demotion, reduction in hours, termination, etc.).
4) What if my work or my child’s school or daycare is closed for a health emergency?
You can also use your sick time if your place of business is closed by order of a public official for any health-related reason or to care for a child whose school or childcare provider has been closed by order of a public official.
5) Which of my family members are covered by the law?
Under the law, you can take sick time to care for yourself or a child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, grandchild, grandparent, or sibling.
6) What if I already have paid leave or paid time off?
If you already get any paid leave (vacation, paid time off, etc.) that you can use as sick time and it’s at least the same amount you would earn under this law, the law does not give you any additional paid time off.
7) When can I begin using my sick time?
You start earning sick time immediately but cannot use it until 90 days after the start of your employment.
8) Do I need a doctor’s note?
Only after more than 3 days of absence (and the note does not have to specify your illness).
All covered workers are protected against being fired or punishedfor using or requesting sick or safe time. If you have a problem—or want more information—call A Better Balance’s free legal clinic at 1-833-NEED-ABB.
The City of Tacoma’s Finance Office is in charge of enforcing this law.
Please note that this fact sheet does not represent an exhaustive overview of the paid sick time law described, and it does not constitute legal advice. It is possible that additional provisions not described in this fact sheet may apply to a worker’s specific circumstances or category of employment.
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