I recently attended an enlightening continuing legal education presentation by Dylan Orr, Director of the City of Seattle’s Office of Labor Standards. I learned a bit about enforcement of several ordinances passed by Seattle voters in recent years. These laws include the Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance (2012), Fair Chance Employment (2013), Minimum Wage law (2014), Wage Theft law (2014), and Secure Scheduling ordinance (effective July 1, 2017).
If an employee believes a business has violated the requirements of any of these ordinances, the employee may file a complaint with the Office of Labor Standards. In addition, beginning on April 1 of this year, employees can now file lawsuits against a Seattle business subject to the Minimum Wage, Wage Theft and Paid Sick and Safe Time ordinances alleging violations. (Prior to April 1, 2017, only businesses with more than 50 employees could be sued for alleged violations.)
The Office of Labor Standards is poised to expand its enforcement operations in 2017. A proposed staffing increase will grow the office’s total staff from 13 to 23 staff positions, and it has proposed increasing its enforcement staff from seven to 12. If a violation of one of the above ordinances is alleged to the Office of Labor Standards, it will initiate an investigation of the business and expect that the business has maintained all required documentation for three years for its employees. (Washington law also requires businesses to maintain the same employee records.)
Not all of these ordinances apply to all small businesses with employees in Seattle. The Secure Scheduling ordinance, for example, will only apply to retail and food establishments with more than 500 employees worldwide. However, the Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance applies to businesses with four or more full-time equivalent employees, and the Minimum Wage law, Wage Theft law, and Fair Chance Employment ordinance apply to all businesses with employees who work in Seattle.
The Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance, Seattle Municipal Code 14.16, requires that businesses with more than four full-time equivalent employees provide paid “sick and safe” time for employees who work in Seattle. Sick and safe time means paid time for absences from work due to illness, preventative care or domestic violence. This ordinance establishes three tiers of employers based on the number of employees, each with a slightly different rate at which an employee accrues paid sick and safe time, as well as different requirements for the use and accrual of sick and safe time. New businesses are exempt from these requirements until 24 months after hiring their first employee.
While Seattle’s Minimum Wage law applies to all businesses with employees in Seattle, businesses employing fewer than 500 employees may pay a lower rate of minimum wage than businesses with more than 500 employees. The Fair Chance Employment law applies to all Seattle businesses. It requires employers to delay criminal background checks on potential employees until after screening applicants for minimum requirements. Businesses must follow specific procedures before making an adverse hiring decision based solely on the results of a criminal background check. The Wage Theft Law also applies to all Seattle businesses. It requires businesses to pay employees all compensation owed on a regular payday and to give employees written information about their job and pay.
Is your business fully complying with Seattle’s labor standards laws? Consult with an attorney – we’d be happy to chat!
Photo credit: VirtualWolf on Flickr