September 2012 Bar Bulletin
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September 2012 Bar Bulletin

Dealing with Seattle's Paid Sick and Safe Leave Ordinance

By Laura Morse and Katheryn Bradley


The wait for the Seattle Paid Sick and Safe Leave Ordinance, which went into effect September 1, is over.

The City of Seattle, through the Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR), spent nine months after Mayor Mike McGinn signed the Ordinance to gather public comments and adopt final administrative rules implementing paid sick and safe leave for employees working in Seattle. Indeed, the SOCR's proposed rules generated substantial comments from the employer community.

The SOCR responded to these comments by making significant changes before adopting final rules on June 29. On the eve of the effective date, many employers were still scrambling to decipher the complicated Ordinance and understand the final administrative rules. The City's "Frequently Asked Questions" publication has continued to evolve even after adoption of the "final" rules.

Based on our experience over the last few months presenting seminars to employers to assist them in preparing for compliance, we have put together the following pointers for counsel advising employers.

Getting the Word out - Notice to Employees. Employers must ensure that their affected (and potentially affected) employees get notice of the Ordinance. One way - and a highly recommended way - is for the employer to update its written sick leave or paid time off (PTO) policy and circulate it to all employees.

Employers may also display the poster that SOCR created, which is located on its website. SOCR also prepared a draft letter that employers may distribute to their employees. An employer would also be wise to get signed acknowledgement forms from affected employees, just as with any other new policy rollout.

Nuts and Bolts: Some of the Basics and the Not-So-Basics. The Ordinance is not for those who dislike math. It is a maze of calculating tier levels, accrual rates, usage rates and carryover numbers.

Accrual, use and carryover rates are all driven by each employer's Tier Level. So the first order of business is to calculate the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) employees employed during the prior calendar year. This can trip employers up in a number of ways.

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