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Pop Quiz: Family Leave and Sick Leave Edition


January 14, 2019 by Paul Sullivan
Category: Leave Policies

Pop Quiz: Family Leave and Sick Leave Edition

A lot seems to be going on with employee leaves. Paid sick leave is in force, premiums are being collected for the Paid Family Leave, and the use of Paid Family Leave will begin in 2020. To test your knowledge of these new leave provisions, here’s a test. Don’t worry, it’s open book.


Question #1

Employees may begin to take paid family leave starting July 1, 2019, the beginning of the state fiscal year.

  1. True
  2. False

Answer

False. While premiums must be paid beginning January 1, 2019, the leave itself is not available until January 1, 2020. (Unpaid family leave, however, may nevertheless be available under the federal Family Medical Leave Act.)


Question #2

All elected officials will be covered by the state Paid Family Leave Act.

  1. True
  2. False

Answer

True. While some question whether local elected officials are covered, the Employment Security Department (ESD), which enforces the Paid Family Leave Act, takes the position that all elected officials are covered under the Act. Thus, councilmembers, mayors, commissioners, and other elected officials are covered.


Question #3

The town council meets once a month and its meetings never last more than two hours. For reporting purposes under the Paid Family Leave Act, 40 hours should be reported for each week for each elected official.

  1. True
  2. False

Answer

Probably false. Although the initial guidance required reporting 40 hours per week for salaried officials, ESD recently offered the new guidance: “When a salaried employee is not a full-time salaried employee, we are asking that the employer make a good faith estimate on the hours actually worked. If their hours are tracked, please report the actual number of hours worked.”


Question #4

By statute, the Paid Family Leave Act does not apply to employees covered by collective bargaining agreements in effect before October 19, 2017, at least not until the agreements expire, are reopened, or are renegotiated.

The XYZ water district has employees who were covered by a collective bargaining agreement that expired on August 31, 2017. Negotiations for a new contract were begun before the expiration date but did not end until agreement was reached and signed in November 2017. The new contract was made retroactive to September 1, 2017, the day after the old contract expired.  Employees covered under the district’s new contract are not required to pay premiums in 2019.

  1. True
  2. False

Answer

False.  According to advice now provided by the ESD Help Desk, since the new contract was not signed until after October 19, 2017, even though its contract’s provisions were made retroactive to the date immediately following the previous 2016 contract’s expiration date, for purposes of Paid Family and Medical Leave Act,  premiums must paid.
 
The above answer corrects the answer previously given in an update on January 16, after the blog was published on January 15. The previous answer was based upon information provided by Employment Security, but that information is no longer correct and thus the answer to this question is changed.  We apologize for the confusion.


Question #5

District A’s employees are paid monthly. Payment is made on the first Friday following the beginning of each new month and covers the hours worked during the previous month. Since the January 4 payment only covered hours worked in December 2018, District A is not required to pay premiums for the amount paid on January 4.

  1. True
  2. False

Answer

False. Since the payments were made in January 2019, the Employment Security Department advises that the “wages and hours will be reported when they are paid, not when they [were] earned. This means hours worked in December, but paid in January, will be reported as part of the first quarter 2019 wages/hours.” 

Editor's note: This answer was changed on January 16, 2019, the day after this article's initial publication.


Question #6

The ABC irrigation district is small, with only three employees. Due to its size, is the district or its employees required to pay paid family leave premiums?

  1. Yes
  2. No

Answer

Partially yes, partially no. With a very few exceptions, employees are required to pay premiums. The number of employees working for a jurisdiction does not determine whether payments are required to be paid by employees. However, if a jurisdiction has fewer than 50 employees, the district is not required to pay the employer share of the premiums.


Question #7

There might be a financial benefit available for a small jurisdiction (fewer than 50 employees) that pays the employees’ portion of the paid family leave premiums even though the jurisdiction is not required to pay these premiums.

  1. True
  2. False

Answer

True. The Paid Family Leave Act provides for grants of up to $3,000 to small employers to help cover their costs of hiring temporary employees. For a jurisdiction to be eligible, it must, on average, have fewer than 50 employees, an employee in question must be on leave for seven or more days, and the jurisdiction must pay the employee portion of the premiums even though, because of its size, it is not required to do so. Grants can be issued 10 times per year to a single employer.


Question #8

Earl was paid a bonus for exemplary work above that required for his position. His wages were continued for the one week he was on bereavement leave and for two weeks when he was out sick. Should Earl’s employer now calculate paid family leave premiums on the bonus and the payments for the sick and bereavement leaves?

  1. Yes
  2. No

Answer

Yes. Gross wages include, but are not limited to, salary or hourly wages, sick leave, vacation leave, holiday pay, bereavement leave, paid time off, bonuses, and the cash value of meals and lodging when given as compensation.


Question #9

Three weeks after Alice began work for the county, she had to have an emergency appendectomy. Alice’s doctor advises that she should not go back to work for two weeks. Alice is not too concerned though, since she thinks she will be able to receive paid sick leave for the time she is off work. Should Alice be concerned?

  1. Yes
  2. No

Answer

Yes. To be eligible for paid sick leave, a new employee must have worked for at least 90 days. Additionally, paid sick leave accrues at the rate of one hour for each 40 hours worked. After three weeks, Alice would have only accrued three hours of sick leave and, of course, since she had not yet worked the requisite 90 days, she would not be eligible for paid sick leave.


Question #10

Your long-time employee Marvin has a favorite uncle who suffered a severe injury while skiing. Since Marvin’s uncle had no other family member who could care for him, Marvin agreed to do so for two weeks.  Can Marvin use paid sick leave to receive his normal salary during the two weeks he is taking off work to care for his uncle?

  1. Yes
  2. No

Answer

No. While paid sick leave is available to allow an employee to miss work to provide care for a family member who needs medical care, the leave is not available for the care of all family members. Sick leave may be taken to care for children, parents, a spouse, a registered domestic partners, grandparents, grandchildren or siblings. Uncles (and aunts) are not included in the list of relatives.

Questions? Comments?

There will be many more questions that will likely arise during the upcoming months. If you have questions about employee leave or other local government issues, please use our Ask MRSC form or call us at (206) 625-1300 or (800) 933-6772. If you have comments about this blog post or other topics you would like us to write about, please email me at psullivan@mrsc.org

About Paul Sullivan

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

VIEW ALL POSTS BY Paul Sullivan

Comments

"Celia: If a worker’s employment is “localized” in Washington, the worker is subject to the act and is required to pay premiums. The worker would be eligible for benefits (beginning in 2020) if the worker has worked at least 820 hours in a qualifying period. A qualifying period is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters starting from when the claim for benefits is made."

Paul Sullivan on Feb 28, 2019 9:30 AM

"If you are employed in Washington but reside in another state are you still eligible for the WAFML?"

Celia Peterson on Feb 28, 2019 6:43 AM

"We have not addressed whether unpaid elected officials are covered. However, we have been advised that volunteer firefighters are not covered by the program since they are unpaid. Employment Security advised “Rulemaking regarding benefits and employer reporting is still ongoing, so rules are subject to change. At this time Paid Family and Medical Leave does not view volunteer firefighters as being employees.” I believe that the same would be true for an volunteer elected official who is unpaid. In any case, if a person is unpaid, the premium would always be zero since the premium rate would be applied to the elected’s compensation, which is zero, resulting in a zero premium."

Paul Sullivan on Jan 24, 2019 2:55 PM

"Item 2 states that all elected officials are eligible for pfml. Does that include volunteer electeds who are not paid (no per meeting stipend, no salary)?"

Heidi on Jan 24, 2019 2:17 PM

"This was a very effective "quiz" communications device with context in the answers and links back to the place we left off. Very good information. Props to the layout and length."

D Jones on Jan 14, 2019 9:33 AM

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