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Legal Alert

Workplace Law Update For Washington Employers, Summer 2018 Edition


Washington’s lawmakers and regulators have not taken a summer holiday this year, remaining active by passing new regulations based on legislation from the last legislative cycle or reacting to new case law by creating new legal obligations. Their actions continue to challenge Washington employers to keep up with evolving workplace laws. The good news? We’ve put together summaries of some of the more significant recent developments for you here.

Washington Paid Family Leave

As we’ve shared previously, Washington employers must start collecting premiums for Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits on January 1, 2019. The benefits become available January 1, 2020. 

Codified as Title 50A RCW, this new program will allow all employees who have worked at least 820 hours in the previous year to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave (1) to care for a family member with a serious health condition; (2) to care for a new child after birth, adoption, or foster placement; and (3) for a qualifying military exigency. 

The Employment Security Department (ESD), who will administer this new leave, is currently in the process of developing rules to implement, clarify, and enforce the new program. The rulemaking will be done in four phases. 

For more information about the ESD’s rulemaking process and to view the final and proposed rules, visit its website here.

Arbitration Limits For Government Contractors

Washington Governor Jay Inslee recently issued Executive Order 18-03—a clear rebuke to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis and a warning to employers doing business with the State of Washington. Epic Systems essentially resolved a split among the federal circuit courts of appeal by upholding the validity of mandatory class action waivers in employment arbitration agreements, and rejecting arguments that Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) prohibited such waivers through its “concerted activities” protections. 

Governor Inslee’s June 12 executive order registers his disagreement with the Supreme Court’s ruling, going so far as to state that Epic Systems “will inevitably result in an increased difficulty holding employers accountable for widespread practices that harm workers.” Thus, effective immediately, the order directs all Washington executive and small cabinet agencies, when making purchasing and procurement decisions, to show a preference for employers that “can demonstrate or will certify” that their employees are not required to sign arbitration agreements containing class action waivers as a condition of employment.

This order has potentially large implications for employers who contract with the state of Washington. Such government contractors should consider revisiting any employee arbitration agreements to determine how those may impact any bids for work.

Seattle Paid Sick Leave

You may recall that Seattle amended its Paid Sick and Safe Time (PSST) ordinance in late 2017 in reaction to some more generous provisions of Washington’s new Paid Sick Leave law. The Seattle Office of Labor Standards (OLS) has finally issued its updates to the administrative rules, effective July 1, 2018. Highlights of some of the key changes are:

Reconciling the differences between Seattle’s and Washington’s laws to come up with a compliant sick and safe leave or universal PTO policy remains challenging. Employers who believe their current paid policy meets both Seattle and Washington’s laws should consider a fresh look to ensure compliance.


If you have questions about any of the above legal developments, please contact any member of our Seattle office at 206.682.2308 or your Fisher Phillips attorney.

This Legal Alert provides an overview of specific state law changes. It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice for any particular fact situation.


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