Washington’s New Minimum Wage and Sick Leave Law: Initiative 1433

Blog post written by Sara Campbell and Jay Corker Free.

businessInitiative 1433 was approved by Washington voters on November 8, 2016.  The measure gradually increases the statewide minimum wage to $13.50 per hour by 2020, and requires employers to provide paid sick leave for workers beginning in 2018.

Minimum Wage Increases Imposed by I-1433

Beginning on January 1, 2017, the Washington minimum wage will increase from the current $9.47 per hour to $11.00 per hour.  Then, on January 1 of each successive year the minimum wage will increase to $11.50 per hour in 2018, $12.00 per hour in 2019, and $13.50 per hour in 2020.  Thereafter, the statewide minimum wage will be annually adjusted to match the rate of inflation.

Several cities in Washington (including Seattle, SeaTac, and Tacoma) currently impose higher minimum wages than the statewide minimum wage.  Employers operating in those cities must continue to pay the higher amounts required by city ordinances.

New Paid Sick Leave Requirements

Initiative 1433 introduces a requirement that every Washington employer provide paid sick leave to its workers beginning in 2018.  Employers must issue employees at least one hour of paid sick leave for every forty hours worked, and employees must be allowed to begin using sick leave after 90 days of employment.  Under the law, employees may carry over up to 40 hours of accrued but unused sick leave each year, and employers must provide employees with regular notice as to the amount of sick leave they have earned.

Employees may use sick leave to address their own medical needs (meaning injury, illness or other health conditions), to care for a covered family member’s medical needs, in the event an employee’s place of business or their child’s school or childcare is closed for a health related reason, or for certain absences related to domestic violence.  Here, covered family members include, among other relationships, the employee’s children, parents, spouse, registered domestic partner, grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings.

It is important to note that although the sick leave requirements under Initiative 1433 are similar to those set forth in Seattle’s Sick and Safe Time Ordinance, there are key differences between the programs.  Where those differences exist (for example regarding accrual rates, annual carry over limits, use and eligibility requirements), employers must offer their employees the most favorable protections afforded under either the city or state law.

We recommend all employers thoroughly review their sick leave and wage and hour policies and procedures, and employee handbooks to confirm that they will remain compliant with the law as it goes into effect.  If you have any questions regarding the minimum wage or sick leave requirements, please contact Tamara Roe or any of the experienced employment law attorneys at MPBA.