By:  Lizbeth V. West, Esq.

Effective September 1, 2012, employees in the City of Seattle are entitled to accrue paid sick and paid safe time (“PSST”) for use when an employee or family member needs to take time off from work due to illness or a critical safety issue, such as domestic violence.

Except with a few exceptions like federal, state, and county governmental employees, student employees enrolled in a work study program, and employees who work for an employer with less than four employees, all employees who perform work in Seattle for a covered employer are eligible for PSST. This means, even those employees who work outside of Seattle (or outside Washington) but who stop in Seattle as part of their work (e.g. sales employees making sales calls, or any business meetings in Seattle, etc.) The amount of PSST an eligible employee accrues depends on the size of the covered employer. There are three tiers of covered employers and the amount of PSST available to each eligible employee corresponds to each tier as follows (based on full-time employment – otherwise calculated on a pro-rated basis):

4 – 49 employees: Employees accrue 1 hour of PSST for every 40 hours worked, may use up to 40 hours of PSST each calendar year, and may carry over up to 40 hours of unused PSST each calendar year.

50-249 employees: Employees accrue 1 hour of PSST for every 40 hours worked, may use up to 56 hours of PSST each calendar year, and may carry over 56 hours of unused PSST each calendar year.

250+ employees: Employees accrue 1 hour of PSST for every 30 hours worked, may use up to 72 hours of PSST each calendar year, and may carry over up to 72 hours of PSST each calendar year.
Some other specifics:

–   Accrual starts when the employee is hired (if already employed, accrual started on September 1, 2012).

–   Accrual is based on hours worked in Seattle.

–   For occasional employees, accrual begins after employee has worked 240 hours (not just in Seattle) in a calendar year.

–   Employer can limit use of accrued PSST until after the employee has worked 180 days for employer.

–   PSST is measured in hour-long increments.

–   Employers must provide notification of available PSST each time wages are paid (either by paystub or online).

–   Employers must retain PSST records (hours worked in Seattle, accrued PSST, and used PSST) for each employee for no less than two years.

–   PSST can be combined with or made a part of an employer’s PTO policy, provided it complies with the PSST Ordinance.

–   Employers in their discretion, can permit employees to voluntarily cash out unused PSST rather than carry it over to the next calendar year.

–   PSST is paid at the same rate of pay the employee earns at the time he/she takes PSST, but excludes incentive pay like commissions or tips the employee may have earned but for taking PSST.

–   Except in the case of collective bargaining agreements, employees cannot waive their right to PSST.

–   No requirement that unused PSST be paid out at termination of employment. However, if an employee is rehired within 7 months of termination date, his/her accrued PSST must be reinstated.

–   PSST can be coordinated with statutory laws like FMLA, Domestic Violence Leave, and workers’ compensation.

–   Employees must provide a written request for PSST 10 days in advance if the PSST is foreseeable.

–   Employees must give notice as soon as practicable if the need for PSST is unforeseeable.

–   Employers can require employees who take PSST to follow all other employer rules and policies. However, PSST cannot be counted as an absence that may result in discipline (e.g. under an attendance/service policy).

–   If PSST is more than 3 consecutive days, employers may require documentation like a statement from a healthcare provider if PSST taken due to employee’s illness. However, employers cannot require a statement of the nature of the illness or other private medical information. If FMLA and or the ADA also apply, then employers may seek information consistent with those statutes.

–   Employers may also ask for documentation for PSST less than 3 days if there is a clear pattern of abuse of PSST.

–   If employee is covered under employer’s health insurance, or declined coverage, he/she is responsible for the cost of any statement from a health care provider. If the employer does not offer health insurance, the employer and employee are responsible for each paying 50% of the cost of such statement.

–   Employers are prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against an employee who exercises his/her rights to PSST.

–   All covered employers are required to provide notice to all employees who work in Seattle of their right to PSST. A form notice entitled “Paid Sick & Safe Time; Seattle Works Well” can be obtained for the Seattle Office for Civil Rights website at