This measure would increase the state minimum wage to $11.00 in 2017, $11.50 in 2018, $12.00 in 2019, and $13.50 in 2020, require employers to provide paid sick leave, and adopt related laws.
Should this measure be enacted into law?
Washington's minimum wage for employees who are at least 18 years old is $9.47 per hour for 2016. For employees under 18 years old, the Washington Department of Labor and Industries sets the minimum wage. The Department has determined that workers who are 16 or 17 years old must receive the adult minimum wage. Workers who are under 16 years old may be paid 85% of the adult minimum wage, which for 2016 is $8.05 per hour. Employers must pay overtime wages of at least one and one-half an employee's regular rate of pay for hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a 7-day work week. Employers cannot use tips as credit toward minimum wages owed to a worker.
Some cities have adopted local laws that require a higher minimum wage within those cities. Where a higher local minimum wage applies, the employer must pay the higher minimum wage. If a federal or local law sets a lower minimum wage than the one required by state law, the higher state minimum wage is the one that applies.
The Department of Labor and Industries calculates a cost of living adjustment to the state minimum wage every fall, and the new rate takes effect the following January 1. The Department calculates the minimum wage increase according to the rate of inflation.
Most workers must be paid at least the minimum wage for all hours worked. But some workers are not currently covered by the state Minimum Wage Act. For example, people who are working as independent contractors, casual laborers, certain "white collar" professionals, and volunteers for qualified organizations are not covered.
There are currently no state laws that require an employer to provide paid sick leave. But some cities have passed local laws that require employers to provide paid sick leave. Absent a local law requiring it, paid sick leave is considered a benefit that an employer may choose to provide under an agreement or policy.
Under Washington's Family Care Act, if an employer offers paid leave, their employees can use earned paid leave to care for a sick family member. Covered family members include children, parents, spouses, registered domestic partners, parents-in-law, and grandparents.
In addition, there are federal and state laws that govern when a worker can take unpaid leave. The federal Family Medical Leave Act and the state Family Leave Act currently permit some workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave and still keep their jobs. To qualify, the worker must have worked at least 12 months for the employer for a total of at least 1,250 hours, and the employer must have 50 or more employees. The unpaid leave can be used to recover from the worker's own serious illness, to care for a child, spouse, or parent with a serious health condition, or to care for a newborn child, newly adopted child, or foster child.
Under Washington's domestic violence leave law, victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking and their family members can also take reasonable leave to take care of legal or law enforcement needs, to seek treatment, to obtain services, to relocate, or to take other action to ensure the victim's safety. The law does not require that domestic violence leave be paid leave, but an employee may choose to use paid leave if he or she has it.
The Department of Labor and Industries enforces Washington's Minimum Wage Act and state leave laws and adopts rules related to these laws.
The Effect of the Proposed Measure if Approved
Initiative 1433 would increase the hourly minimum wage incrementally over four years and require employers to provide paid sick leave. The measure would also adopt related laws about earning and using paid sick leave.
Initiative 1433 would increase the hourly minimum wage for employees who are at least 18 years old to $11.00 on January 1, 2017; $11.50 on January 1, 2018; $12.00 on January 1, 2019; and $13.50 on January 1, 2020. The Department of Labor and Industries must still set the minimum wage for employees under 18 years old.
Beginning on January 1, 2021, the minimum wage rate would again be adjusted each year according to the rate of inflation. If a local law requires a higher minimum wage within a city, the local minimum wage would apply. Beginning on January 1, 2018, employers would be required to provide paid sick leave to employees covered by the Minimum Wage Act. Employers would be required to pay sick leave at the employee's pay rate or at the new minimum wage, whichever is higher. An employee would get at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, but employers could provide more generous paid leave. The measure would require employers to allow use of paid sick leave after 90 days of employment. Sick leave could be used to meet an employee's own medical needs or to care for a family member's medical needs. Family members would include: a spouse or registered domestic partner; a child; a parent, step-parent, or legal guardian; a grandparent; a grandchild; and a brother or sister. Paid sick leave could also be used when the employee's place of business or their child's school or childcare is ordered to be closed for a health related reason. Paid sick leave could be used for domestic violence leave.
An employer could require employees to give reasonable notice when they want to take paid sick leave. Where an absence from work will last longer than three days, employers could also require verification that the employee is taking leave for an authorized purpose. An employer could not require an employee to search for or find a replacement worker in order to be able to take paid sick leave.
Employers would be required to provide their employees with regular notice about the amount of paid sick leave they have earned. Up to 40 hours of sick leave could be carried over to the following year, and employers could allow more carryover if they wish. Employers would not have to pay employees for their unused sick leave when the employee leaves. Where an employee leaves a job and is rehired by the same employer within one year, previously earned sick leave would have to be reinstated.
The measure would make the state Minimum Wage Act, including its minimum wage, overtime, and new paid sick leave requirements, expressly apply to people who contract with the Department of Social and Health Services to provide care to disabled people under certain programs. But the measure does not otherwise expand the state Minimum Wage Act to make it apply to other workers who are not currently covered.
Employers would not be allowed to discriminate or retaliate against an employee or impose discipline against an employee for proper use of paid sick leave. An employee could not agree to receive less than what he or she is entitled to under the initiative. The Department of Labor and Industries would enforce the new law and would have to adopt rules for implementing and enforcing it.