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2022 Legislative Updates to Personnel Laws — Salary and Leave

2022 Legislative Updates to Personnel Laws — Salary and Leave

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify that ESD, not employers, must ask employees if they are taking PFML for reasons related to COVID-19, and to remove a statement that medical leave has greater protections and compensation than family leave.

As has been the case for several years, the Washington State Legislature continues to expand employer obligations by calling for more generous employee benefits and protections. In this blog, we’ll cover new legislation related to mandatory disclosure of salary and benefits in job postings and an expansion of the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act.

Salary and Benefits Disclosure

The legislature previously updated the Equal Pay and Opportunities Act (EPOA) in 2019 by requiring transparency on pay ranges for particular positions after an employer has extended a job offer and prohibiting employers from asking for an applicant’s wage history prior to extending an offer with proposed pay. Note that the EPOA only applies to employers with 15 or more employees (See Chapter 49.58 RCW).

With ESSB 5761, the legislature has amended RCW 49.58.110 to require wage transparency upfront. Employers with 15 or more employers will be required to:

disclose in each posting for each job opening the wage scale or salary range, and a general description of all of the benefits and other compensation to be offered to the hired applicant. For the purposes of this section, “posting” means any solicitation intended to recruit job applicants for a specific available position, including recruitment done directly by an employer or indirectly through a third party, and includes any postings done electronically, or with a printed hard copy, that includes qualifications for desired applicants.

This requirement to include wage information in the job posting will go into effect January 1, 2023. While the new requirement is not yet in effect and smaller employers are not required to comply, MRSC encourages all employers to consider going ahead and voluntarily disclose this information in their job postings.

For more on this and other hiring topics see our page on Hiring Procedures.

Paid Family and Medical Leave Expansion

Washington implemented the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (PFML) in 2020 (adopted in 2017), replacing the former Washington Family Leave Act. As with any major new program, it is necessary to fill in some gaps and prepare for the long-term health of the program.

The legislature made several changes and additions to the PFML in SSB 5649. The first, and likely most significant for employees, is that the bill expands the definition of “family leave” to include the seven calendar days following the death of a child either pre-birth or during the 12 months after birth or placement. Additionally, an employee is allowed to take medical leave rather than family leave during the first six weeks after the birth of a child. An employee is also not required to obtain certification for a serious health condition (i.e., a doctor’s note after three days of absence) to be eligible for leave benefits during the first six weeks after the birth of a child.

Currently, the PFML does not apply to collective bargaining agreements that were in existence on October 19, 2017 (see RCW 50A.05.090), but this exemption will expire on December 31, 2023.

The bill also requires the Employment Security Department (ESD) to publish a list of employers with approved voluntary plans that have opted out of participating in the PFML. That list is already available on ESD’s website.

The bill creates the Office of Actuarial Services within ESD, which is required to annually report on the financial health of the program and the lowest future premium rates to ensure solvency. ESD is required to report quarterly on premium collections, benefit payments, the insurance account balance, and other program expenditures. The Office of the State Actuary is required to assist ESD. The bill also creates a legislative committee to oversee the health of the program and charges the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) to conduct a performance audit.

Finally, the bill creates a temporary obligation for ESD to ask employees if they are taking PFML for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the obligation expiring July 1, 2023. The information is to be used solely for the administration of the program, including monitoring the potential impacts on the financial health of the program. Disclosure of this information is controlled by chapter 50A.25 RCW and RCW 50A.05.020(3) and 50A.20.030.

For more on federal and state family and/or medical leave programs see our page Family and Medical Leave.

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.

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About Sarah Doar

Sarah Doar joined MRSC in September 2018.

Most recently, she served as a Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for Island County. At Island County, Sarah advised on many aspects of government business, including compliance with public record and opening meeting laws. She also defended the County in Growth Management Act and Land Use litigation. Prior to moving to Washington, Sarah practiced land use, environmental, and appellate law in Florida for over eight years.

Sarah holds a B.A. in Biology from Case Western Reserve University and a J.D. with a certificate in environmental and land use law from Florida State University College of Law.