Happy New Year: Washington state gets raise, paid sick leave

OLYMPIA (Jan. 2, 2018) — As of yesterday, hundreds of thousands of working people in Washington state got a raise and access to paid sick and safe leave. What a great way to start a happy new year!

Thanks to the passage of Initiative 1433 — a successful ballot measure proposed and supported by the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO and a coalition of labor and community allies in 2016 — the state’s new mandatory paid sick leave law took effect on Monday. The state’s minimum wage also climbed to $11.50 an hour from $11, on its way to $13.50 in 2020, after which it will be adjusted annually for inflation.

Under the new paid sick leave law, employees will earn at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. The law also requires employers to carry over up to 40 hours of an employee’s unused sick leave from one year to the next.

“Paid sick leave is important for all of us. No one wants employees to come into work sick. It’s bad for them, their co-workers, and customers,” said Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) Director Joel Sacks. “The new law allows employees to take care of themselves, or their family members, when they’re sick. It makes our state a better place to work.”

Two weeks ago, L&I adopted final rules with specifics on how the law will be enforced. The rules explain how L&I will respond to employers who violate the paid sick leave law, fail to pay employees the tips and service charges that they’re owed, or retaliate against an employee. Employees can file a complaint with L&I if they believe their employer is not complying with the new law. Businesses can face fines and have to provide back pay.

To help employers get ready, L&I has launched an online Employer Resource Center that covers key topics like how to implement a paid sick leave policy and how to notify employees of their paid sick leave rights. Businesses can also sign up for a webinar, scheduled through February 2018, to learn more about the new requirements. Some webinars already held were full to capacity because of the high amount of interest in learning more about implementing the new law. Along with webinars and other in-person outreach, L&I has a paid campaign with TV, online, radio and social media ads to make sure employers know that the new law is coming, and what it entails.


L&I also mailed a new required workplace poster — updated with paid sick leave information — to all employer worksites in Washington. The Your Rights as a Worker poster is available for downloading in eight languages on L&I’s website.

Washington is the seventh state to have a paid sick leave law. Others include California, Oregon, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and Arizona, as well as the District of Columbia. Find more information online at

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