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Paid Sick Leave and Initiative 1433

Paid Sick Leave and Initiative 1433

Initiative 1433, approved by the voters in November 2016, sets the minimum wage for most employees (currently $11.00 per hour). But the initiative does more than that. Starting January 1, 2018, every employer in the state, including local governments, will be required to provide its employees with paid sick leave. This blog post will explore how this new requirement will affect local governments in Washington State.

What if We Already Provide Paid Sick Leave?

Most local governments likely already provide their employees with paid sick leave. Nevertheless, the initiative establishes minimum statewide policies that local governments will need to meet. So, if your current local sick leave policy provides a benefit to employees less than that provided by the initiative, then your policy will need to be revised. And, of course, if an agency does not already provide for paid sick leave for its employees, it must do so starting in 2018.

What Does Initiative 1433 Require?

Employers will be required to provide at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours an employee works. Thus, if a current policy limits sick leave availability only to regular, full-time employees, that policy will need to be changed. Sick leave can be carried over from one year to the next, although an employer may limit the carry-over to 40 hours. If an employer chooses, sick leave accrual can be given at a higher accumulation rate and used for broader purposes than would otherwise be required by the initiative. In addition, advance accrual of sick leave (“front-loading”) can be allowed.

Some local policies allow an employee to “cash out” his or her sick leave balance upon separation from employment, such as upon retirement. That is not required by Initiative 1433. If an employee separates from work but is rehired within twelve months, any previously unused paid sick leave must be reinstated.

When Can an Employee Use Paid Sick Leave?

Once an employee has been employed for 90 days, he or she may use sick leave for the employee’s or a family member’s mental or physical illness, health condition, or to allow for the diagnosis, care, or treatment of an illness, or to obtain preventative medical care. A “family member” is broadly defined by the initiative to include:

  • A child who is the biological, adoptive, de facto or foster child of the employee, a stepchild, a child for whom the employee stands in loco parentis or is a legal guardian, or is a de facto parent, regardless of age or dependency status.
  • Biological, adoptive, de facto or foster parents, stepparents, legal guardians of the employee or the employee’s spouse or registered domestic partner, or a person who stood in loco parentis of the employee as a minor child.
  • The employee’s spouse, registered domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling.

Sick leave may be used for absences that qualify for leave under the state’s Domestic Violence Leave Act. Sick leave may also be used if the employer’s place of business has been closed by a public official for a health-related reason or if an employee’s child’s school or place of care has been closed for such a reason.

Can Employers Verify that Leave Was Taken for an Authorized Purpose?

An employer may require that the employee give “reasonable notice” of an absence, so long as the notice requirement does not interfere with the lawful use of sick leave. If the employee is absent from work for more than three days, the employer can require a verification that the sick leave use was for an authorized purpose. The verification cannot impose an unreasonable burden or expense on the employee. The sick leave policy cannot require the employee find a replacement worker to cover the hours when the employee is on sick leave.

Final Thoughts

As suggested at the outset, many local paid leave policies may already meet or exceed the initiative’s requirements. Nevertheless, while there is time (before January 1, 2018), it would be a good idea to review current policies to assure compliance or, if need be, adopt a policy that will be in conformity with the initiative. Let MRSC know, if we can help.

Have a question or comment about this information? Let me know below or contact me directly at

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 Paul Sullivan

Paul worked with many local governments and authored numerous MRSC publications on local elections, ordinances, and general local government operations in his many years at MRSC. He is now retired.