Countdown: Many Firms Not Prepared for Seattle’s New Sick Leave Law
Lane Powell Shareholder Katheryn Bradley was quoted in a June 22 Puget Sound Business Journal article titled “Countdown: Many Firms Not Prepared for Seattle’s New Sick Leave Law.” In the article, Bradley discusses the importance of training and recommends that business owners prepare a detailed written policy in order to comply with Seattle’s Paid Sick and Safe Leave Ordinance, which is effective September 1.
So what are business owners to do? For starters, Bradley said, they should work up a detailed written policy, determine how they’ll track accrued, used and rolled-over hours, and train managers and supervisors about the reasons employees are permitted to take time off, so companies don’t end up with a charge filed against them.
The law will be monitored through a complaint-based system with the Seattle Office of Civil Rights. If wrongdoing is found, the city will try to mediate without penalty to the employer, though it has the authority to require a business to pay up to two years’ worth of back pay and damages up to $10,000.
The “safe” component of the law allows employees to use accrued sick leave to cope with the effects of domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking, involving themselves or a family member. The law provides a very broad definition of family or household members — for example, an employee could take time off if her roommate was the victim of domestic violence.
Bradley stresses the importance of training. “You could see how a front-line supervisor might not be all that familiar with all of the reasons that might be permissible for taking leave,” she said. “If you get a request from an employee saying, ‘I need time off because my roommate needs x, y and z because they were a victim,’ you could see somebody saying, ‘Well, no you can’t take that time off, we’re really busy.’ And that could potentially lead to a charge, and penalties and damages.”