Mt. Baker Chapter of SHRM

Legislative Update 2024

Friday, April 12, 2024 8:48 AM | Marley Morgan

Employment related bills that have been signed by the governor:

  • SHB 1905 (pay equity):
    • Expands Washington’s existing pay equity law beyond gender to also include membership in a long list of protected classes: age, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, national origin, citizenship or immigration status, honorably discharged veteran or military status, or the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability.
    • Effective July 1, 2025.
  • ESSB 5793 (paid sick leave expansion):
    • Expands the definition of family member under Washington Paid Sick Leave to match the definition in Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave (WPFML).
    • The revised list of family members for whom an employee may take time off to provide care under Washington Paid Sick Leave now includes the employee’s child’s spouse and “any individual who regularly resides in the employee’s home or where the relationship creates an expectation that the employee care for the person, and that individual depends on the employee for care.”
    • An employee’s registered domestic partner is already covered under current law, but the new bill defines anyone’s “spouse” to include a husband, wife, or state registered domestic partner.
    • The bill also expands the authorized reasons for taking Washington Paid Sick Leave to include situations when an employee’s child’s school or place of care has been closed after the declaration of an emergency by a local or state government or agency, or by the federal government.
    • Effective January 1, 2025.
    • “Emergency” isn’t defined in the bill, but it would be reasonable to assume it includes emergency declarations related to events such as flooding, extreme weather, or wildfire smoke.
    • Also, if you have any employees working in the City of Tacoma, the Tacoma Paid Sick Leave Ordinance says that if the state’s reasons for leave are more generous, the state law applies.
  • ESSB 5778 (employer communications on religious or political issues):
    • The “Employee Free Choice Act” prohibits employers from requiring workers to attend employer-sponsored meetings, listen to verbal communications, or view electronic or other communications when the primary purpose is to share the employer’s opinion on religious or political matters.
    • Threatening or imposing any negative consequences for failure to do so is similarly forbidden. The bill broadly defines “political matters” to include “matters relating to elections for political office, political parties, proposals to change legislation, proposals to change regulations, and the decision to join or support any political party or political, civic, community, fraternal, or labor association or organization.”
    • Effective June 6, 2024.
    • It’s possible this law could be challenged because the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) generally gives employers the right to hold “captive audience” speeches to communicate their point of view during union organizing drives. We’ll keep members informed of any substantive developments.
  • ESSB 6069 (mandatory employer-facilitated retirement savings):
    • Establishes Washington Saves, which will require most employers that don’t offer a retirement plan to automatically enroll workers in a state-administered retirement savings plan.
    • Covered employers will deduct a percentage of workers’ paychecks and send it to the state for deposit into individual retirement accounts (IRAs).
    • A governing board will set default rates for contribution percentages (3 to 7 percent) and automatic escalation (up to 1 percent per year). The maximum contribution based on the default escalation will be 10 percent.
    • Workers may modify their contribution rates or opt out of the program at any time.
    • The accounts are portable, so workers may continue contributing even when they change jobs.
    • Employers will have to register with the state, promptly forward employees’ payroll deductions, and provide notices to employees.
    • The bill takes effect on June 6, 2024, but it will take time to get the program up and running. The program is scheduled to launch by July 1, 2027, although the governing board is authorized to stagger implementation in phases after that date.
    • Employers aren’t allowed to contribute to Washington Saves. However, the existing Washington small business retirement marketplace will still offer voluntary options for employer contributions to retirement funds. The bill modifies the marketplace by removing references to payroll deductions for individual IRAs, since those instead will be offered through Washington Saves.
    • This legislation follows similar programs that are already in place in California (CalSavers) and Oregon (OregonSaves).
  • E2SSB 5838 (Establishing an artificial intelligence task force)
    • Subject to appropriations, a task force is created to assess current uses and trends by private and public sector entities and make recommendations to the Legislature regarding standards for the use and regulation of AI. The Office of the Attorney General must administer and provide staff support for the task force.
  • SB 5979 (paid sick leave clarifications for construction industry):
    • Clarifies the definition of construction workers who are entitled to receive a payout of their accrued but unused sick pay if they terminate employment before reaching their 90-day eligibility period for Washington Paid Sick Leave.
    • A construction worker is defined as “a worker who performed service, maintenance, or construction work on a jobsite, in the field or in a fabrication shop using the tools of the worker’s trade or craft.”
    • This statutory language overrides existing paid sick leave regulations (WAC 296-128-600(3)) that granted the payout right to employees who aren’t directly engaged in the construction work itself, such as nonexempt administrative staff of a construction company.
    • Effective March 13, 2024.
    • This payout requirement only applies to employers in the construction industry (North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code 23), but not to employers in residential building construction (NAICS code 2361).
    • Construction industry employers with a collective bargaining agreement continue to be exempt from Washington Paid Sick Leave as long as they qualify for an exemption under RCW 49.46.180.
  • HB 1927 (Reducing number of days a temporary disability must continue to receive industrial insurance compensation)
    • Reducing the number of days that a worker's temporary total disability must continue to receive industrial insurance compensation for the day of an injury and the three-day period following the injury.
  • SB 6007 (Concerning employment standards for grocery workers)
    • This requires those who purchase a business to hire those employees of the business they are purchasing first before hiring any others.

City of Bellingham Minimum Wage

City Minimum Wage - City of Bellingham ( (see site for FAQ’s)

  • Starting May 1, 2024, the City of Bellingham requires employers to pay the city minimum wage. As of May 1, 2024, the minimum wage in Bellingham is $17.28.
  • Minimum wage workers
    • The City’s minimum wage applies to all hours worked by employees within the geographic boundaries of the city of Bellingham. Employers with employees who are paid minimum wage and performing work within the city limits must comply with the minimum wage requirements.
  • Minimum wage increases
    • As of May 1, 2024, the current minimum wage in Bellingham is $17.28, which is $1.00 above the Washington State minimum wage for 2024. Further increases in the city minimum wage will be tied to changes to the Washington State minimum wage set under RCW 49.46.
    • Starting May 1, 2025, the city minimum wage will be set at $2.00 above the applicable Washington State minimum wage.
    • Every year after, starting in 2026, the city minimum wage will be set at $2.00 above the applicable Washington State minimum wage effective on January 1 every year. The city will establish the city minimum wage within two weeks of the publication of the new state minimum wage. 
  • Enforcement of the minimum wage requirement
    • Employers must ensure they pay minimum wage employees the new minimum wage as of May 1, 2024. Employers must keep records (as required by RCW 49.46.070) and any other information the City may use to confirm they are complying with the minimum wage requirements.
    • Anyone who believes they are not receiving the correct minimum wage may bring a complaint against their employer. Employees who believe their employer is not complying with the new minimum wage rules should contact a private attorney or their union, if they have one, to pursue a complaint. 
    • The court may require employers who violate this requirement to pay back wages or provide other forms of relief to affected employees.
Ch. 6.07 Minimum Wage for Employees | Bellingham Municipal Code

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