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Two New (Unpaid) Holidays for Government Employees


April 23, 2014 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Leave Policies

Legislation (SSB 5173) passed during the 2014 session entitles local (and state) government employees to two unpaid holidays per calendar year “for reasons of faith or conscience or for an organized activity conducted under the auspices of a religious denomination, church, or religious organization.” The legislation goes into effect on June 12.

A local government employee may select the specific days to take as unpaid holidays under this new law after consulting with his or her employer and under guidelines adopted by local  ordinance or resolution. The employer must allow the employee to take these specific days as unpaid leave unless his or her absence on these days would impose an undue hardship on the employer or the employee is necessary to maintain public safety. The definition of an “undue hardship” will be determined by a rule to be adopted by the state Office of Financial Management.

There are currently 10 legal state holidays (RCW 1.16.050): New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents' Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Veterans' Day, Thanksgiving Day and the day immediately following, and Christmas Day. The statutory holidays include an additional holiday, a “floating holiday,” selected by the employee after consulting with the employer. These statutory holidays are paid holidays for state and local government employees, although they can be modified for local government employees by collective bargaining agreement or by ordinance or resolution adopted by the legislative authority.  In other words, a local government can vary from the statutory paid holidays as provided in RCW 1.16.050 by providing for more, fewer, or even no paid holidays for its employees.

Unlike the 10 paid state holidays and floating holiday that are optional for local governments (that apply unless opted out of), the two new unpaid holidays provided for in SSB 5173 are required to be available for local government employees.

Happy holidays!

MRSC is a private nonprofit organization serving local governments in Washington State. Eligible government agencies in Washington State may use our free, one-on-one Ask MRSC service to get answers to legal, policy, or financial questions.

About Paul Sullivan

Paul has worked with local governments since 1974 and has authored MRSC publications on local elections, ordinances, and general local government operations. He also provides training on the Open Public Meetings Act.

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