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January 26, 2016
Compliance Deadline Fast Approaching for Tacoma Paid Leave Ordinance
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On February 1, 2016, Tacoma’s new Paid Leave Ordinance (“TPLO”) will take effect and require employers of more than one employee to provide paid leave for all employees.  Yet many employers have not updated their leave policies, leave accrual rates, or employee handbooks to reflect the new requirements.

Generally speaking, under the TPLO all employees (full-time, part-time, temporary, etcetera) must be allowed to accrue leave at the minimum rate of 1 hour paid leave for every 40 hours worked within the city of Tacoma, up to a minimum leave balance of 24 hour per calendar year.  The 24 hour leave balance can be carried over to the next calendar year if it remains unused and employees must be permitted to use up to a total of 40 carry over hours per calendar year for the various reasons outlined in the TPLO.

The TPLO accrual provision will undoubtedly require most employers to change who is entitled to paid leave, and its carry over provision will radically alter so-called “use it or lose it” policies.  Nevertheless, the reasons for which an employee is entitled to use leave under the TPLO are not overly onerous for employers.  For example, there is no requirement that employees be permitted to use leave for vacation purposes.  Instead, the PTLO only requires that employees be allowed to use accrued leave for the following reasons:

1. An absence resulting from an employee’s mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; to accommodate medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; or preventive medical care.

2. To allow the employee to care for a family member with a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; care for a family member who needs medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; or care for a family member who needs preventive medical care.

3. When the employee’s place of business has been closed by order of a public official to limit exposure to an infectious agent, biological toxin, or hazardous material.

4. To allow the employee to care for a child whose school or place of care has been closed by order of a public official.

5. To enable the employee to seek legal or law enforcement assistance or remedies to ensure the health and safety of the employee or the employee’s family members, including, but not limited to, preparing for or participating in any civil or criminal legal proceeding related to or derived from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

6. To enable the employee to obtain, or assist a family member in obtaining, services from a domestic violence shelter, rape crisis center, or other social services program for relief from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

7. To enable the employee to participate in safety planning, temporarily or permanently relocate, or take other actions to increase the safety of the employee or employee’s family members from future domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

8. To enable the employee to take leave for bereavement for the death a family member.

That said, the interplay among the TPLO and other applicable state and federal leave laws will pose interesting compliance dilemmas for employers of various sizes.  Therefore employers are urged to not only seek legal counsel in adopting and/or updating their leave policies, but also to seek advice of counsel during implementation to ensure compliance.  

Disclaimer

This advisory is a publication of Eisenhower Carlson PLLC. Our purpose in publishing this advisory is to inform our clients and friends of recent legal developments. It is not intended, nor should it be used, as a substitute for specific legal advice as legal counsel may only be given in response to inquiries regarding particular situations.

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