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 Seattle, Washington below. Note: Local paid sick time laws may offer additional protections. To learn more about Seattle’s paid sick time law, visit here. To learn about Tacoma’s paid sick time law, visit here.
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.
1) What does the Washington State Paid Sick Leave law do?
It gives workers sick leave 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 for any health-related reason; or to address certain needs that may arise if the worker or a family member are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
Additionally, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries released administrative guidance clarifying that sick time can also be used for certain COVID-19 related reasons, including exposure to COVID-19.
2) Am I covered?
If you work as an employee in Washington State, you are probably covered, whether you are a full-time, part-time, or temporary worker. However, the law does not cover federal employees.
3) How much sick leave can I earn?
You earn 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. There is no limit on how much sick 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 their sick leave (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 leave 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 for any health-related reason.
5) Which of my family members are covered by the law?
Under the law, you can take sick leave to care for yourself or a child, spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, parent of a spouse or registered domestic partner, grandchild, grandparent, or sibling.
You can also take sick leave to address certain needs if you or a child, parent, parent of a spouse, spouse, grandparent, or person with whom you have a dating relationship is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
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 leave 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 leave?
You start earning sick leave immediately but cannot use it until 90 calendar days after the start of your employment.
8) Do I need a doctor’s note?
If you use sick time for more than 3 days, your employer can require a note from a health care provider. The note does not need to describe the health issue—only your need for the amount of sick time taken.
All covered workers are protected against being fired or punished for using sick leave. If you have a problem—or want more information—call A Better Balance’s free legal clinic at 1-833-NEED-ABB.
The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries 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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