Spokane’s Earned Sick and Safe Leave Ordinance Means more Time Keeping

Spokane earned sick and safe time ordinance
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Spokane became the fourth city in Washington State to pass paid sick time laws with a 6-1 approval. The new sick time ordinances took effect on Jan 1, 2017.  However, before the new ordinance took effect, Washington State approved a statewide sick leave law. Spokane’s new ordinance was updated with a sunset clause that phases out the new ordinance. The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the new Spokane’s Earned Sick Leave Ordinance and an update of its changing status.

Sunset Clause added to Sick and Safe Time

Spokane’s Earned Sick and Safe Time Ordinance law is set to expire on December 31, 2017, when the Washington State Sick Leave Law takes effect. If the Washington State Paid Sick Leave law is delayed past the current start date of January 1, 2018, then the Spokane law will continue to be in force until the Washington State Law takes effect.  

Included Employees under Spokane’s New Sick Leave Law

The new law applies to any employee who works in Spokane for 240 hours or more in a given year. This includes temporary workers who meet that requirement. All employers with at least 1 employee, are required to provide sick time. Employees will be awarded 1 hours of sick time for every 30 hours worked. Companies can decide whether they are going to accrue this sick time on a calendar year or on a fiscal year, but are required to disclose which year it is in the employee handbook.

Excluded Employees

Excluded employees include any seasonal or domestic worker. Excluded employees also include family members of business owners. Any business with a single owner, including the spouse, with zero employees, is excluded. As are US Government employees, Washington State employees, any other city, county or government employee, and any federally-recognized Indian Tribe employee. Workers in the building trades and work-study employees are also specifically excluded.

Allowable uses for Sick and Safe Leave

The new earned sick and safe leave ordinance provides not only for sick leave but also provides for safe time off for employees. Paid sick and safe time leave (PSSL) includes any time spent for the care of physical or mental illness, injury or health condition. That includes health, appointments, sickness, etc. Safe time includes issues that arise as a public health issue, mainly when a health official closes the employee’s place of work or the school of an employee’s child to the public for a health issue. Domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking victims are also granted safe time through the law to seek redress, healing and safety planning. It also includes seeking legal and law enforcement assistance from domestic violence. Lastly, sick leave can also be used for bereavement.

  • Mental or Physical illness, injury or health condition
  • Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, or Stalking: to seek treatment, help, or assistance from a healthcare provider, law enforcement, or legal redress.
    • Including in a facility for domestic violence victims, rape crisis centers, and other social services programs.
    • Participate in relocation or planning to relocate for the safety of the victims.
  • When the employee’s place of business, or their child’s school or place of care is closed by a public official to limit exposure to an infectious agent, biological toxin or hazardous material.
  • Bereavement of a covered Family Member

Accepted Family Member Relationships for Sick and Safe Time Leave

Employees are able to take the time off for themselves or for a family member. Family members include dependents, spouses, parents, grandparents, and grandchildren.

  • Children under 18 yrs old
  • Spouses or Domestic Partners
  • Children over 18 yrs old who are not able to self-care
  • Parents or Guardians
  • Grandparents and Grandchildren

Sick Leave Bank and Minimum Usage

Employees that are rehired within 12 months of leaving an employer must have their earned sick time reinstated to them. If sick leave is foreseeable, such as preventative care, employers can require that the employee give a 7-day notice prior to the sick time off. This would be applicable in the case of doctors appointments. If the sick leave is unforeseeable, then the employee must give notice as soon as possible.

Probationary Period

Employers can require a 90 day probationary period for new employees. Sick Leave accrual still starts on the first date of employment, but with a probationary period, employees can be restricted from using the sick leave until after they have been employed for 90 days.

Sick and Safe Time Accrual and Rollover based on Employer Size

Small businesses with less than 10 employees must allow employees to accrue and use sick leave up to 24 hours in a year. Small employers must also allow employees to roll up to 24 hours a year of sick leave. Employers with more than 10 employees must allow employees to use and accrue up to 40 hours each year. Large employers must allow up to 40 hours of sick leave to be rolled to the following year.


Spokane Sick Time < 10 employees 10+ employees Washington State
Time of hours per year an employee can use. 24 sick paid hours per year 40 sick paid hours per  year No Cap at this time
Sick Leave Hours that can be rolled to the following year if unused 24 hours of sick leave 40 hours of sick leave No Cap at this time
Rehiring: Is sick leave Reinstated Not Required Not Required If rehired within 12 months, it must be reinstated

Notification and Posting Requirements

Employers are required to maintain records of the employee’s, hours worked, sick leave accrual and usage for at least 3 years. If the employer fails to maintain adequate records, the employer is deemed to have violated the employment law.

Employers are also required to notify employees each pay period of their sick leave accrual and usage. Employers are also required to post the notice regarding sick leave in the workplace. The poster should be in a place commonly accessed by all the employees.

Penalties for Retaliation, Sick Leave Denial, and Failure to Post

Penalties include a Class 1 Civil Infraction. Businesses can also be denied the ability to register new locations or businesses when in violation of these labor laws. Additionally, businesses can be required to pay up to three times the amount of the penalty when retaliating against any employee who asserts or who attempts to assert their rights under the law. In cases where the employer has denied sick leave, the penalty can be double the damages.

Washington Sick Leave Laws and Regulations

In November 2016, Washington State voters passed into law a statewide sick leave law which was the cause of the sunset clause for Spokane’s Sick Leave Law. Additionally, several cities, including Seattle, Tacoma, and SeaTac have already passed sick leave laws for their cities. Spokane added a sunset clause to their sick leave ordinance that phases out as the Washington Law starts.

How do employers in Spokane phase into Washington laws?

Spokane employers should plan to roll accrued and unused sick leave into 2018. Although the Spokane law is planned to end December 31, 2017, it is possible that it is extended for a variety of reasons. Washington Earned Sick Leave Law will start on January 1, 2018. Although there are still a number of specific points that are waiting to be defined by Washington state, it is anticipated that Washington Department of Labor will further define any sick leave accrual and usage caps during the year. It is also anticipated that the Labor Department will define how State’s new plan will coordinate with existing sick leave policies and the up-front awarding of sick leave. This article will be updated as Washington State makes their decisions and defines these specific aspects.

National Sick Leave Policy

Nationally, there are no sick leave laws requiring sick leave. However, the FMLA, (Family and Medical Leave Act) require unpaid sick leave with job protection for Spokane 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, including all Spokane companies 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 roll over the sick leave. The law does not require employers 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.

The executive order provides sick leave for a wide variety of situations, including sickness for the employee, the employee’s immediate family, and dependents. It also includes provisions for domestic violence, stalking, preventative care, counseling, relocation, legal processes for the stalking situation and other specific circumstances. Spokane companies with Federal contracts must be able to manage and meet these regulations.

Compliance with State 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. In addition to Spokane’s new sick and safe time laws. In addition to the new Statewide Sick Leave Laws, there are many other state-specific laws in place regarding employee time card and benefits. These laws have massive fines and penalties applied to them for companies that violate the regulations.

Spokane employers that wait until after a complaint or state investigation to place the proper software in place will pay thousands more in fines and penalties that 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 time clock 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 St Paul or Minneapolis and a growing list of other cities 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 to the state and city laws. Additionally, with geo-timekeeping clocks, businesses can effortlessly track time worked in specific cities to ensure compliance.


McClatchey, Brian, Earned Safe and Sick Leave. Spokane City. https://my.spokanecity.org/citycouncil/items-of-interest/sick-leave/


SeaTac Paid Sick Leave Laws for Hospitality and Transportation Workers

Seattle Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance

Tacoma Paid Leave Ordinance

Washington State Sick Leave Law

Washington’s Sick Leave Laws Across the State Chart

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

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