Employee Resource Center for Paid Sick Leave


New paid sick leave rights for Washington workers

If you are an employee in Washington State, your employer is now required to provide you with paid sick leave. The paid sick leave law was one of several changes to worker rights mandated by Initiative 1433, approved by Washington voters in 2016.

How much paid sick leave can I earn?

  • You must earn at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours you work. Employers may provide more leave if they choose.
  • You began earning paid sick leave on your first day of work on or after Jan. 1, 2018
  • If you do not use all of the paid sick leave you’ve earned by the end of the accrual year, your employer must carry over balances of 40 hours or less to the next year.

Am I paid the same for a sick leave hour as I am for a regular work hour?

Yes. Your employer must pay your earned paid sick leave hours at your normal hourly compensation.

When may I use my earned paid sick leave?

You may use this leave:

  • For a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition or if you need a medical diagnosis or preventative medical care.
  • If a family member (see below) needs care for a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, or needs a medical diagnosis or preventative medical care.
  • If your workplace or your child’s school or place of care has been closed for any health reason by order of a public health official.
  • If you are absent from work for reasons that qualify for leave under the state’s Domestic Violence Leave Act (DVLA).

How soon may I begin using sick leave?

You may begin using earned paid sick leave 90 calendar days after your first day of work with your employer. If you separate from your employer and are rehired within 12 months, any days you worked before leaving your job will count toward this 90-day period.

What family members may I use paid sick leave to care for?

Family members include your:

  • Child - This may include a biological, adopted, or foster child, stepchild, or child you are legally responsible for.
  • Parent - This may include your biological, adoptive, or foster parent, your stepparent, or someone who was your legal guardian or their spouse or registered domestic partner – or a person who was legally responsible for you when you were a minor.
  • Spouse.
  • Registered domestic partner.
  • Grandparent.
  • Grandchild.
  • Sibling.

Is my employer required to notify me of my right to paid sick leave?

Yes.  All Washington employers must notify their employees of this right in writing (paper or electronic).

Your employer must give you an initial, one-time notice explaining:

  • That you are legally entitled to paid sick leave.
  • How much paid sick leave you will earn.
  • When you may use paid sick leave.
  • That they are prohibited from retaliating against you for using paid sick leave for any reason allowed by this law, or for exercising other rights within the Minimum Wage Act.
  • See an example of a notice. (67 KB Word) (En Espanól).


At least once a month, your employer must give you a statement (paper or electronic) that explains:

  • How much paid sick leave you earned since your last notice.
  • How much paid sick leave you used since your last notice.
  • How much unused paid sick leave is available to you.

(Your employer may use regular payroll statements to notify you.)

What if taking sick leave causes trouble for me at work?

If you use your paid sick leave for any reason allowed by this law, your employer is prohibited from disciplining you for this absence.

It’s also illegal for your employer to:

  • Not pay you the current minimum wage.
  • Not pay overtime owed to you.
  • Retaliate or take any negative action against you for filing a complaint with L&I about paid sick leave, minimum wage or overtime – or for exercising any other right under the Minimum Wage Act.

Check out L&I’s Workplace Rights website.
If you have a complaint or suspicion about your employer not providing you with paid sick leave or violating your other rights under the Minimum Wage Act, you can report it to L&I. Complete the form below online or by mail, and include any relevant information or records. Mail or bring the form and records to the L&I office where the business is located.

Online: File a Workplace Rights Complaint
By mail: Worker Rights Complaint Form: F700-148-000

Are employers required to give ALL employees paid sick leave?

There are only a few exceptions. They include employees who are doctors, lawyers, or dentists, as well as most executive managers who are paid on a salary (rather than an hourly) basis, if they supervise two or more full-time employees. More information:  Administrative Policy ES.A.1, Minimum Wage Act Applicability.

What other new protections for workers were included in Initiative 1433?

In addition to the paid sick leave requirement, Initiative 1433 includes three other changes to state law:

  • Increases the minimum wage over the next several years.
  • Ensures tips and service charges are given to the appropriate staff.
  • Protects employees from retaliation when exercising their rights under the Minimum Wage Act.


More worker rights coming in 2019-20

Starting in 2020, Washington will be the fifth state in the nation to offer paid family and medical leave benefits to workers. The program will be funded by premiums paid by both employees and many employers, and will be administered by the Employment Security Department (ESD). This insurance program will allow workers to take necessary time off when they welcome a new child into their family, are struck by a serious illness or injury, or need to take care of an ill or ailing relative. As directed by the Legislature, premium payments begin on Jan. 1, 2019 and benefits can be taken starting Jan. 1, 2020.

For more information, see Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) (www.esd.wa.gov).


For more information


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