Seattle City Council Expands Paid Sick and Safe Time in Response to COVID-19

Stoel Rives - World of Employment
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Stoel Rives - World of Employment

The Seattle City Council has expanded Paid Sick and Safe Time (“PSST”) in response to COVID-19.  In addition to the usual reasons for which a Seattle employee may use PSST, the new amendments provide that Seattle employees must be allowed to use their accrued PSST:

  • when the employee’s family member’s school or place of care has been closed; or
  • for businesses with 250 or more full-time equivalents, when the employee’s place of business has been closed for any health or safety reason (even if the closure is not required by a public health official).

Before the amendments, PSST was available only if an employee’s child’s place of care or school was closed.  That has been expanded to include any family member, defined to be not just a child, but also a parent, spouse, registered domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling.  In addition, the closure of the family member’s school or place of care does not have to be for a health-related reason or due to an order of closure from a public official.  Similarly, for larger employers, closure of the business for a health or safety reason no longer must be required by a public health official to serve as a basis for PSST use.

In addition to the expansion of PSST, the Seattle Office of Labor Standards has issued an emergency rule that prohibits employers from requiring a doctor’s note or healthcare provider verification for PSST use during the COVID-19 crisis.  Under the new rule, employers must provide alternatives for the employee to meet the employer’s verification requirement, and the alternatives may not result in an unreasonable burden or expense to the employee.

Washington employers should also consider Washington’s Paid Sick Leave Act, the Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which create overlapping leave requirements (and which we have previously posted about here).  If you have any questions or need help navigating these issues, please contact us.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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