Note: The Family Leave Act sunsets on December 31, 2019 and all benefits associated with this statute will no longer be applicable. Workers who need leave after December 31, 2019, may apply for Paid Family Medical Leave (PFML), a new insurance program administered by the Employment Security Department. Workers may apply for PFML after January 1, 2020. Visit paidleave.wa.gov for more details. Applications for benefits should be available on their website in January 2020.
There are similar state and federal laws that provide protected leave benefits to your family. The Washington State Family Leave Act (FLA) provides up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave in a 12-month period.
In most cases, the FLA works in tandem with (not in addition to) the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). However, if the state FLA provides a more generous benefit than the FMLA, additional leave may be available.
The state FLA provides additional benefits in three areas:
- Pregnancy leave.
- State registered domestic partnership.
- Certain military situations.
The U.S. Department of Labor enforces FMLA benefits.
Qualifications & Benefits
- Employers with 50 or more employees in 20 or more calendar workweeks must offer this leave.
- Employees must work in a location where their employer has 50 or more employees within a 75- mile radius of the employees worksite.
- Employees must have worked for a covered employer for at least 12 months.
- These 12 months do not have to be consecutive and generally include previous periods of work for the same employer, including seasonal or part-time work .
- Employees must have worked 1,250 hours within the last 12 months.
- Employees must give 30-days’ notice to their employer for foreseeable leave.
- In emergency circumstances, notice must be given as soon as practicable.
- Employers can request certification from a health care provider to support the leave request.
- Employees can receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.
- Employees can use paid sick or vacation leave balances as allowed by their employer’s policies. Once any paid leave is exhausted, the remainder of the leave may be unpaid.
- Employees’ jobs are protected.
- Employees must be allowed to return to an equivalent position with equivalent benefits, pay, hours, etc. at their previous workplace or another workplace within twenty miles of the employee's workplace.
- Employers cannot retaliate against or discharge an employee who uses these benefits, or who files a claim that their rights or benefits were denied.
- Leave can be taken intermittently or on a reduced leave schedule with the employer's agreement.
- Employees can continue their medical and dental benefits, as provided in their employer’s policies or collective bargaining agreement, or
- If the employer does not offer paid benefits during leave, the employee can pay to continue their medical or dental benefits at their expense, not exceeding 102 percent of the plan premiums.
The Washington State Family Leave Act (FLA) allows up to 12 weeks of leave for care and bonding after exhausting any pregnancy disability leave. Here is how it works:
- Your physician will tell you how long your pregnancy recovery (disability) may last.
- After that period, you may qualify for up to 12 weeks of leave under the Washington State Family Leave Act (FLA).
- Note: if you are adopting a child, you only qualify for leave under federal law.
For example: Your physician determines you need 6 weeks to recover from the birth of your child. After that period, if you qualify, you may be entitled of up to 12 weeks of leave under the FLA. Your total leave in this example would be 18 weeks. Note: Your leave time will vary based on the advice of your physician.
Your state pregnancy disability leave and your FMLA leave can run at the same time. You may exhaust your 12 weeks of federal benefits, but may still have time available under state law to care and bond with your child.
State Registered Domestic Partners
Under the FLA, domestic partners registered with the state can receive the same benefits as legally married couples. State law requires registered domestic partners to be “treated the same as married spouses” (RCW 26.60.015).
Changes in federal law
Federal rules enacted in 2015 recognize the rights of all legally married couples to receive spousal leave under the FMLA, including couples in common law marriages, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
The federal FMLA offers up to 12 weeks of leave for certain military exigencies. You must use FMLA leave for these exigencies as the state FLA does not cover them. Military exigencies can include:
- Short-notice deployment.
- Military events.
- Childcare, financial and legal arrangements.
- Post-deployment activities.
If you have exhausted your military exigency benefit under the FMLA, the FLA may still allow 12 weeks of additional leave for:
- The birth of a child.
- Placement of a child for adoption or foster care.
- Care for a qualifying family member.
- Your own serious health condition.
For example: You exhaust your 12 weeks of federal FMLA leave because you addressed childcare and legal arrangements related to a deployment. You also attended several military and post-deployment activities. Now, you receive word one of your parents has a serious health conditional and you need more time off to help.
In this situation, you may qualify for an additional 12 weeks of leave under the State FLA even though you have exhausted your 12 weeks of federal (FMLA) military exigency leave.
Military caregiver leave
The FMLA also provides up to 26 weeks of “Military Caregiver Leave” to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness. Use of Military Caregiver Leave runs concurrent with your state FLA benefits, not in addition to them.
To file a Family Leave Act complaint: