Mt. Baker Chapter of SHRM

L&I Updates Paid Sick Leave Rules

Thursday, January 18, 2024 10:22 AM | Marley Morgan

The Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) updated the state’s paid sick leave rules, effective January 1, 2024. Most changes to the rules relate to a new Washington law requiring payout of accrued leave for short-term construction workers. However, some of the rules on usage, paid time off (PTO) programs, and frontloading were also revised.

  • Usage: The revised rules clarify that it is an employee’s choice whether to use their accrued paid sick leave, or not. The use of paid sick leave cannot be required (but an employee who chooses not to use their paid sick leave to cover an absence is not entitled to any rights or protection under the paid sick leave law.)
  • PTO policy: The updated rules clarify what’s required for a PTO policy to comply with the paid sick leave law and add a new requirement to provide notice if you intend to use a PTO policy to satisfy the state’s paid sick leave requirements. The revised rules also clarify that if you provide more PTO than what’s required by the paid sick leave law, you’re allowed to set different requirements for employees when they use their PTO for non-sick-leave-related reasons, but only if the more generous portion of the PTO is tracked separately from the required paid sick leave portion.
  • Negative balance (frontloading): L&I also added a new rule stating that if you allow an employee to use more paid sick leave than they have available in their leave bank, creating a “negative” leave balance, you’re effectively “frontloading” the paid sick leave and must comply with all the specific rules for frontloading.
  • Construction workers: Workers covered by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Industry Code 23 (other than residential building construction code 2361) must be paid the balance of their accrued paid sick leave if they separate employment before 90 calendar days.

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