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Mandatory Sick Leave Coming Soon To Washington State

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Workers in the state of Washington are about to get a new benefit. Starting January 1, the state will require all employers to provide paid sick leave.

It’s part of a law passed by voters in 2016 that also raises the state’s minimum wage.

Under the new law, employees earn one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours they work. For a full time worker, that adds up to 6.5 sick days per year.

Tiffany Loescher is with the state’s Department of Labor and Industries. She said that could be a big change for some employers.

“It’s definitely something they will need to figure out—the financial impact as well as the logistical impact in terms of figuring out how the work will be done in cases where people are taking paid sick leave,” Loescher said.

The Department Labor and Industries offers help to employers both in person and through webinars, Loescher said. In November, the department mailed out informational posters detailing the requirements of the new law. Employers are required to post the notices publicly in their workplaces. 

Oregon has had a sick leave law on the books since 2015. But that law exempts the smallest employers from the requirement to provide paid sick leave.

Deborah is an award–winning radio and television journalist whose career spans more than three decades. As the recipient of a 2018-2019 Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellowship, Deborah is currently focusing her reporting on adolescents and mental health.