Washington Employment Law Update — April 2019

Washington

Paid Family and Medical Leave Amendments

On April 3, 2019, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed legislation (H.B. 1399) amending the state’s paid family and medical leave law as follows:

  • Remuneration is defined as compensation paid for personal services including commissions and bonuses and the cash value of all compensation paid in any medium other than cash, with exceptions.
  • Wages are separately defined for premium assessment, payment of benefits, and self-employed persons.
  • Waiting periods: Beginning January 1, 2020, family and medical leave are available and benefits are payable to a qualified employee. Following a waiting period consisting of the first seven consecutive calendar days, benefits are payable when family or medical leave is required. However, no waiting period is required for leave for the birth or placement of a child. Of note, the waiting period begins when an otherwise eligible employee takes leave for the minimum claim duration.
  • Weekly benefit for family and medical leave: If the employee’s average weekly wage is equal to or less than one-half of the state average weekly wage, the benefit amount is equal to 90 percent of the employee’s average weekly wage. If the employee’s average weekly wage is greater than one-half of the state average weekly wage, the benefit amount is the sum of:
    • 90 percent of one-half of the state average weekly wage; and
    • 50 percent of the difference of the employee’s average weekly wage and one-half of the state average weekly wage.
  • Notice requirements: The employer may waive any or all of the employee notice requirements under the law.
  • Supplemental benefits: For any period of time when an employee works for remuneration or profit, an employer may offer supplemental benefit payments to an employee on family or medical leave in addition to any paid family or medical leave benefits the employee is receiving. Supplemental benefit payments include, but are not limited to, vacation, sick, or other paid time off. The choice to receive supplemental benefit payments lies with the employee. The law does not require an employee to receive, or an employer to provide, supplemental benefit payments.
  • Conditional waiver expiration: If an employee who (among other requirements) exceeds the 820 hours or more in a period of four consecutive complete calendar quarters, the conditional waiver expires and the employer and employee will be responsible for their shares of all premiums that would have been paid during this period had the waiver not been granted. Upon payment of the missed premiums, the employee will be credited for the hours worked and will be eligible for benefits as if the premiums were originally paid.
  • Removes the following record reviewing requirements:
    • An employee, or an employee’s authorized representative, may review the records or receive specific information from the records on the presentation of the signed authorization of the employee.
    • An employer, or the employer’s duly authorized representative, may review the records of an employee in connection with a pending application. At the Washington Employment Security Department’s discretion, other persons may review records when such persons are rendering assistance to the department at any stage of the proceedings on any matter pertaining to the administration of the law.
  • Adds that an employee may only receive payment of benefits for family leave, medical leave, or both from one approved plan at a time. An employee who qualifies for benefits and is simultaneously covered by more than one plan will receive benefits under the plan for which the employee has worked the most hours during the employee’s qualifying period.
  • Adds that an employer may appeal any adverse decision by the Washington Employment Security Department. An employee may appeal any adverse decision by an employer or the employer’s agent related to voluntary plans.
  • New sections added regarding exemptions, privacy protections, authority, access to records, confidentiality, and other items.

Change in Q1 Reporting and Premium Payments

The timeline for Q1 paid family and medical leave reporting has been revised. Employers must now submit both Q1 and Q2 reports, and premium payments, in July 2019:

  • Q1 (January, February, March): due July 31.
  • Q2 (April, May, June): due July 31.
  • Q3 (July, August, September: due October 31.
  • Q4: October, November, December: due January 31.

The law is effective July 28, 2019.

Read WA H.B. 1399 and about reporting