New Measures Taken in Washington and Oregon Regarding Paid Time Off

Washington state and Oregon have recently made headlines with changes they have enacted in regard to paid time off. Oregon made amendments to their paid-sick-time law, which more clearly defines some areas that rose questions, while Washington passed a paid family and medical leave program.

Washington’s S.B. 5975 puts into place an option of providing paid leave for 12 weeks for employees that have a new child or need to provide care to sick family members. This law puts a program in place that will allow employees to receive up to 90% of their earnings or wages, or $1,000 per week during their leave. This measure makes Washington the fifth state to incorporate paid family leave programs. The other four states include California, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. The District of Columbia also sanctioned a paid family medical leave law this year as well.

The cost of the premium is to be covered through payroll tax. Premium cost is to be shared between the employee and the employer with the employer paying 37%, and employees paying 63%. However, businesses with less than 50 employees will not be required to pay the employer portion of the premium, but they can still opt in to the program. Employees will not be eligible for this benefit until they have worked 820 hours. To assist with subsidizing paid family medical leave, the law provides business with less than 150 employees with the opportunity to apply for grants. This law is to go into effect in 2020.

Oregon’s paid-sick-time law has been in effect since January 1, 2016. The new S.B. 299 provides parameters around capping annual accrual of sick hours, defines employers’ ability to deny additional hours past a certain number annually, includes more clarity around tracking reasons for PTO, provides exceptions for seasonal farm stands and other temporary offices, and includes additional definition of “employee” and who counts in their total number of workers.

To extrapolate, employers are only required to allow employees to accrue 40 hours of sick leave annually. Some employers decide to give more hours to their employees, but that is up to the business to decide. However, hours can roll over to the next year, but reach a maximum of 80 hours. Businesses have the discretion to deny hours once an employee has utilized 40 hours in a year of paid sick time off. S.B. 299 also ruled that sole proprietors, family members such as spouses and children, partners of LLP’s or members of LLC’s, and certain corporate directors can be excluded from the total number of employees. This amendment is set to take effect on January 1. 2018.

As more states and cities continue to create, modify, and amend paid time laws it will be important for businesses to keep on top of records, tracking, and ensuring they are in compliance. Utilizing human resource and employee scheduling software will play an important role going forward. Software can be used in automating certain aspects of tracking to alleviate or compliment tasks administrators, directors, supervisors, or other management positions must perform.