Starting Jan. 1, Washington growers will have to start providing paid sick leave for all workers as required under Initiative 1433.
Approved by voters in the fall of 2016, the initiative mandated paid sick leave for all employees and boosted minimum wage in annual stages.
Under the new law, employees accrue one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked. They may use sick leave after 90 days and carry over up to 40 unused hours to the following year.
Employees may tap sick leave to care for themselves or a family member, if a family member’s school or care facility closes for a health-related issue or for absences that qualify for leave under the Domestic Violence Leave Act.
The initiative requires employers to notify their workers of the new regulations, keep records of used sick time and report to the state. It also sets up provisions to protect employees from retaliation for using sick leave.
Thus, growers should start preparing now, said Sarah Wixson, a Yakima, Washington, attorney who often represents farmers.
“You will need to work with your payroll system to count and report sick leave,” she said. “You are required to give at least a monthly accounting of leave accrued and used. I think most payroll systems will be able to do that on the paystubs, but it is something you’ll have to work out ahead of time.”
Growers may roll the sick leave into their established paid time off policies as long as they are at least as generous as the new state law, Wixson said.
Growers also should consider assigning employee numbers or some other tactic to track returning seasonal workers each year to accurately record carry-over hours.
To enact the policies, the state’s Department of Labor and Industries is developing rules in two phases. The public can learn more and ask questions to the Employment Standards Program at L&I by going to: bit.ly/2wV5t4t.