No More Pay Cuts and Dismissals to Follow Sickness | DCR Workforce Blog

No More Pay Cuts and Dismissals to Follow Sickness

At least, not if you are in the state of Connecticut or the city of San Francisco, and now in Seattle.
As of September 1, workers in Seattle will accrue paid sick/safety days for use when an employee or family member needs to take time off from work due to illness or a critical safety issue.

Paid sick leave facts:

  • There is no federal policy on sick or safety leave.
  • The bleak job market has made it even more difficult for workers to take time from work to address health or safety needs, for fear of becoming redundant.
  • According to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 43 percent of Latinos accrue any type of paid leave from their employers compared to 60 percent of whites and 61 percent of African Americans.
  • Most families lack a full time, stay-at-home caregiver, as more women take up work outside the home; and the number of single parent families increases.
  •  Women are more likely to request leave to care for a sick family member than men.
  • Telecommuting and workplace flexibility are not possible options for many jobs when dealing with the need for time off..

Paid Sick/Safe Leave

According to the Seattle Paid Sick And Safety Ordinance, all employers with more than 5 employees  must provide paid leaves to all their full-time, part-time and temporary workers who work 240 hours or more in any calendar year, in any capacity. Workers accrue the paid leave benefit based on hours worked and company size.  Accrual starts September 1st or  from the date of hire, and employees can begin using this benefit  after 180 days. This benefit can be used or carried over to the next year.

Leave can be used for any of the following reasons, but will have to be substantiated through documented proof:

  • Employee’s (or their family members’) mental or physical illness, injury or health, as well as for diagnostic services, treatment, or preventative care.
  • Any mandated closure of employee’s place of business due to infectious agent, biological toxin, or hazardous material.  Or, close of their child’s school for the same conditions.
  • Employees dealing with issues of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking that impact the employee or their family

Employers can use existing “universal leave policies”. Employees can use the paid leave for a variety of purposes, including sick/safe leave and do not require additional sick/safe leave hours – in the event the PTO or other paid leave is exhausted for reasons other than sick/safe leave. However, these “universal policies,” PTO policies or vacation policies must adhere to the sick/safe leave accrual requirements, notice requirements, and eligibility requirements to be in compliance with this Ordinance.

This ordinance carries far reaching implications for the use of temporary workers. Employers must provide notice to employees of coverage in physical or electronic form. They must implement a tracking system of Seattle hours, both for internal purposes, and also to advise employees with regard to eligibility for benefits. At a minimum, employers must keep records of total hours worked, accrued leave (paid sick/safe time or PTO) and used leave, ideally on the employees’ paycheck or paystubs. For Seattle employers whose employees work outside the City, these hours are not required to count toward sick/safe leave accrual under the Ordinance. For non-Seattle employers whose workers “occasionally” work inside the City, only those Seattle work hours are required to count toward both eligibility and, once eligible, accrual of safe/sick leave. Employees laid off and rehired within 7 months from the date of termination must be reinstated at full eligibility and with their accrual intact (up to the maximum allowed). As a result, employers may require sophisticated software to track their temporary workers’ work hours and work locations to determine their eligibility (or lack of it) for paid leave under this law.


Employers may breathe a little easy as the city officials are planning to work with businesses to help them put the policy in place without penalizing them for not having a policy ready on Day One. Employers are concerned about rising compensation and administration costs. But these may be set off by benefits like:

  • lower turnover of workers with better productivity and morale,
  • fewer safety incidents resulting from ill workers, and
  • reduced risk of workers with infections transmitting them to others.

Sickness is said to be mankind’s greatest defect. It is also the bane of existence for many American workers who do not enjoy any paid sick leave benefit – unlike workers in at least 145 other countries. Employers and legislators across the country are struggling with the balance between employee benefits and economic pressures, which makes the ordinance passed by Seattle all the more worthy of note!

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.