Tacoma Passes Paid Leave Ordinance that affects every employee in the city

Overview of Tacoma Paid Leave Ordinance

Tacoma was the third city in Washington State to adopt paid sick leave laws. Under the Tacoma paid leave Ordinance, every employee who works 80+ hours inside city limits is eligible to receive sick time off. Unlike other cities and states, Tacoma offers no exceptions to businesses, regardless of size or number of employees. Once employees have become eligible, they remain eligible for the following year as well. 

The Tacoma Paid Leave Act took effect February 1, 2016. Employees started earning sick leave. Employees earn 1 hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked. Employees are able to earn up to a minimum of 24 hours of paid leave each year. Employers can cap leave usage at 24 hours a year. Calendar Year is defined in the ordinance as a calendar year, a 12 month period starting on the date of the employee’s hire date, or a fiscal year.

Eligible Employee for Sick Leave

All employees who work at least 80 hours in Tacoma City limits are eligible to start earning sick leave. This includes full time, part time, temporary employee. Employees who work through a staffing agency are also considered employees and are eligible.

Exceptions to Paid Leave

Employees who are working through a work study program are exempt from the sick leave law. Independent contractors are also considered exempt from mandatory paid leave. Additionally, employees who only occasionally work in Tacoma are exempt as long as they work less than 80 hours during the year in Tacoma City Limits. US Government employees, State employees, and other local and county government employees are also exempt. Lastly, a single employee business is exempt.  

Allowable Uses for Paid Leave (Sick Leave)

The Tacoma paid leave ordinance includes five main reasons employees can get time off. Employees can get time off for both themselves, a family member, or a household member for the allowable reasons. They can take time off for for an existing health condition, illness, or injury for care, treatment or to seek a medical diagnosis. This includes both mental and physical health conditions. If the employee, or their child’s place or work, school, or place or care has been closed for by order of a public official to limit exposure to an infectious agent, biological toxin, or hazardous material. If the employee, family member, or household member is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, they can use paid leave to seek help with law enforcement or legal assistance, or to ensure their safety from any further incidents. They can obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, rape crisis center, or other social services for relief from domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. They can also use leave to obtain new housing or to relocate for safety reasons. Lastly, employees can take paid leave for bereavement for the death of a family member.

  • Health Condition, Injury, or Illness: To obtain a diagnosis, care or treatment
  • If the business, school, or place of care has been closed by a public official
  • Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, Stalking:
    • To obtain law enforcement or legal assistance, including preparing for or participating in any civil or criminal proceedings related
    • To obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, rape crisis center, or other social program designed to provide relief from domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.
    • To participate in safety planning, relocate, or take other actions to ensure their safety
    • To take bereavement for the death of a family member
  • Reasons are for the employee, their family member or a household member

Family Member Definitions

In addition to recognizing specific family relationships, Tacoma also recognizes household member relationships. First, Tacoma recognizes the following family member definitions of child, under 18 yrs old, or over 18 yrs old who are incapable of self care, parents, spouse and grandparent. Tacoma also recognises biological, adopted, foster, step, legal ward, and in loco parentis relationships for children. Accepted parent relationships include adopted, biological or in loco parentis relationships. The ordinance doesn’t specifically recognize foster or step relationships, although often those relationships would count as in loco parentis relationships as well. Spouses include both a spouse and a domestic partner. Domestic partners are specifically defined as legally registered domestic partners.

  • Child: biological, adopted, step, foster, legal ward, in loco parentis
  • Parent: biological, adopted, person who stood in loco parentis when employee was under 18 yrs old.
  • Grandparent
  • Spouse or Registered Domestic Partner

Household members is where accepted definitions become very vague. Household member includes, in addition to spouses and domestic partners, ex-spouses and ex-domestic partners. Persons with a child in common, even if they don’t live together, are also included.The law also recognizes adults related by blood or marriage, adults who reside together or who have resided together in the past. Additionally, 16 yr old persons who have had or do have a dating relationship and who do or have resided together in the past are included as are step parents, stepchildren, and grandparents and grandchildren.

  • Former spouses and former domestic partners
  • Persons with a child in common
  • Adult persons related by blood or marriage
  • Adults who reside or who have previously resided together
  • 16 yr old or older who have previously or currently resided together AND who have a dating relationship or who have had a dating relationship
  • Biological or legal parent child relationship, including stepparents and step children and grandparents and grandchildren.

Accrual of Paid Sick Leave and Probationary Period

Employees earn sick leave at 1 hour for every 40 hours worked. Exempt employees are assumed to work a 40 hour workweek and don’t earn additional leave hours for overtime hours. Sick leave accrual starts on the first date of employment. However, the employer can restrict sick leave usage until the employee has worked for the employer for 180 days. After 180 days, the accrued sick leave can be used.

Employees can roll up to 24 hours of sick leave to the following year. However, employers can restrict the use of sick leave to a maximum of 40 hours in a calendar year.

Coordinating with other leave programs

Employers can provide more leave than is required by law. Further, employers who already provide paid leave and who provide at least 24 hours of paid leave a year and allow employees to use leave for the allowable reasons under the Tacoma Ordinance don’t need to provide additional leave. This includes any Paid Time Off (PTO) or premium pay program.

Sick Leave Bank

Employees that are rehired within 6 months must have their paid time off that was previously earned reinstated. The only exception to this is when the employee is rehired, but it is in a different calendar year. In that case, the sick leave doesn’t have to be reinstated.

When the leave is foreseeable, the employee must give their employer 10 days advanced warning. If its unforeseeable, then the employee must provide notice as soon as it possible. Employers can also allow employees to donate leave to another employee to be used for the allowable reasons.

Record Keeping and Notice

Employers are required to maintain records of employee time tracking and paid time off for a minimum of 3 years. These reports can be demanded with a 5 day window to supply the needed reports. It is more important than ever before that payroll companies have the tools necessary for their clients to track and report compliance with the new ordinances. Employers must either provide notice of employee’s Paid Leave Rights under the ordinance via posting a poster in a conspicuous place in the workplace, by providing it through an employee handbook, or providing it to new employees.

Penalties for Violations against the Tacoma Paid Sick Leave Ordinance

Tacoma has outlined a number of remedies for violations against the paid leave ordinance. First, businesses found to have violated the ordinance must pay back the amount of leave denied plus a 1% interest for each month from the time of violations. Second, the Director can find a business $250 for any violation. If the violation was willful or subsequent, then the fine is a minimum of $250 or 2 times the the total value of the unpaid leave, whichever is greater.

Paid Leave Differences between Spokane, Tacoma and Seattle:

For more information see this article. Additionally, Spokane has passed an updated amendment to their sick leave ordinance, which now includes a sunset clause phasing out the sick leave requirements as the Washington State requirements implement in January 1, 2018.

Spokane Tacoma Seattle
Accrual Rates Uniform for all employers 1 hour for every 40 hours worked Varies based on employer size. Between 1 hour for every 40 and 1 hour for every 30 hours worked.
Accrual Caps No Cap 24 hours per calendar year No Cap
Usage Caps < 10 Employees = 24 hours

10+ Employees = 40 hours

Usage laws vary based on carried hours, and current year’s usage used Based on employer’s size, limits can be imposed. See Seattle Sick Leave Article for more detail.
Increment of use No specification 1 hour increments 1 hour or quarter of an hour increments
“Year” Does not specify Calendar or Fiscal year Benefit year, can include calendar year, fiscal year, or any other 12 months that define the benefits package.
Occasional Work Employees Employees that work in city limits 240 hours a year or more An employee who works in Tacoma occasionally 80 hours a year or more. Any employee that works in Seattle 240 hours or more in a benefit year.
Rehiring NOT required to reinstate If hired within 6 months, Sick leave must be reinstated If hired within 7 months, sick leave time must be reinstated.
Bereavement Allowed Allowed Not Allowed
Inclement Weather Law is silent No exclusion for inclement weather Not allowed.


Washington Sick Leave Laws and Regulations

The State of Washington voted into law a new Statewide Sick Leave law in November, 2016. The new law is set to start on January 1, 2018. Under the new law, all employees will earn 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. One notable difference with the new Washington State law is that there are no annual caps on the amount of hours earned or the amount of sick leave usage allowed to employees. This is critical for businesses with employees in Tacoma, Seattle, or Spokane who have to navigate between city sick leave accrual rates that are different than the State rate and various cap and usage limits.

National Sick Leave Policy

Nationally, there are no sick leave laws requiring sick leave. The Tacoma paid leave ordinance does not allow for time off for bonding after giving birth. However, the FMLA, (Family and Medical Leave Act) require unpaid sick leave with job protection for Tacoma employees that meet certain requirements. Employees must have been with their employers for at least 12 months previously. Washington employers who have 50 employees or more within a 75 mile radius, are required to honor FMLA. Smaller employers are not required to provide FMLA leave.

Executive Order Regarding Sick Leave

In May, 2015, President Obama signed an executive order requiring mandatory sick leave to be provided by all federal contractors that work with Federal agencies. This new policy requires that government contractors give employees 7 days per calendar year of paid sick leave. This includes construction companies, contracts covered under the Service Contract Act, and contracts in connection with federal lands and federal employees. The executive order takes effect on January 1, 2017. Under these provisions employees earn 1 hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked and are allowed to rollover the sick leave. Employers are not required to payout the sick leave when the employee leaves the company and if the employee rehires within 12 months, the previously accrued sick leave is reinstated.

Compliance with Tacoma City and National Time and Attendance Laws

It is more important than ever for both large and small employers to have the tools in place that helps them track employee hours and be able to provide reporting in regards to employee hours time cards. Tacoma’s new ordinance covers all employees that work in Tacoma. This applies to employers located outside of Tacoma, but whose employees work in Tacoma occasionally. Businesses should not wait until after a complaint or state investigation to place the proper software in place will pay thousands more in fines and penalties than companies who take steps now to ensure compliance. SwipeClock provides both the time and attendance tools and the workforce management software for employers to track and provide the reports that prove they are complying with state laws. SwipeClock partners with payroll companies and accounting firms to provide timeclock and workforce management solutions that help businesses to stay compliance with both Federal and State regulations. One of the most important aspects of compliance is the ability to provide the required reporting of employees, benefits, and hours worked from and audit standpoint. Payroll providers need a simplistic approach of one software that can service both their small and larger corporations. SwipeClock can provide one solution for accountants that tracks and creates the reporting needed for their clients.

Let SwipeClock Help

Businesses who have employees in Tacoma, Spokane and throughout Washington, may have to comply with multiple conflicting City ordinances defining Sick leave accrual and usage laws. Additionally, these businesses have to also comply with Federal Overtime Laws, the Family Leave Medical Act and any other national or local laws that are enacted. SwipeClock provides a comprehensive array of workforce management and time tracking tools that can help businesses to more easily stay in compliance with local and national laws. Records are effortlessly kept for years and accrual is automatically tracked and reported to employees according the state and city laws. Additionally, with geo-timekeeping clocks, businesses can effortlessly track time worked in specific cities to ensure compliance.

About SwipeClock

SwipeClock is a leading provider of cloud-based integrated workforce management solutions that include automated time and attendance, advanced scheduling, and leave management capabilities. The company’s products, including TimeWorks Plus, Time Simplicity, and Workforce Management Clock enable employers to manage their most important and expensive asset-employees-by transforming labor from a cost of doing business to a competitive advantage. SwipeClock’s workforce management solutions are sold through over 850 partners that empower more than 26,000 businesses to lower labor costs, comply with regulatory mandates, and maximize their profits. For more information, please visit www.swipeclock.com.

Resources:

Paid Leave Ordinance. Tacoma. Feb, 2016. http://cms.cityoftacoma.org/Finance/paid-leave/Tacoma-Paid-Leave-Ordinance-FAQs.pdf

FAQ for Tacoma City http://www.cityoftacoma.org/cms/One.aspx?pageId=69789

Updated Sick Leave Ordinance http://cms.cityoftacoma.org/Finance/paid-leave/Tacoma-Paid-Leave-Amended-Ordinance28275.pdf

SeaTac Paid Sick Leave Laws for Hospitality and Transportation Workers

Seattle Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance

Spokane Earned Sick and Safe Time Ordinance

Tacoma Paid Leave Ordinance

Washington State Sick Leave Law

Washington’s Sick Leave Laws Comparison Chart

Written by Annemaria Duran. Last Updated on February 7, 2017

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