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Legislative Updates

    Below are links and information related to employment law and relevant in our jobs as HR, Managers, or small business owners.


    City of Seattle and SeaTac Minimum Wage

    The City of Seattle is increasing its minimum wage requirement to $17.27 per hour for most employers. Seattle’s minimum wage rates apply to all non-exempt employees for all hours they work within the city limits. More information can be found here: http://www.seattle.gov/laborstandards/ordinances/minimum-wage

    The City of SeaTac has its own minimum wage for transportation and hospitality. The 2022 minimum wage for those employees is $17.53 per hour. More information can be found here: https://www.seatacwa.gov/our-city/employment-standards-ordinance


    L&I News

    In a unanimous decision, the state Court of Appeals affirmed a Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) decision ordering the Port of Tacoma to pay workers for all travel time on work trips to China and Texas.

    In the past, some employers applied a less protective federal standard that excludes certain travel time outside of normal business hours. The new court decision makes clear, however, employers must pay for all travel time.

    https://www.lni.wa.gov/news-events/article/?id=21-034


    WA State 2021 Election Results:

    Click here to view election results: https://results.vote.wa.gov/results/20211102/whatcom/


    OSHA’s COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing ETS:

    Washington Governor Inslee has not yet issued a statement on the ETS released by Federal OSHA. We will be keeping an eye on this to see if he decides to tighten the federal mandate or not.  Click here for OSHA’s COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing ETS: https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/ets2


    WA State Minimum Wage Increase

    The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) announced the state’s minimum wage will rise to $14.49 per hour starting Jan. 1, 2022.

    State law mandates L&I calculate the minimum wage for the coming year based on the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). L&I compares the CPI-W from August of the previous year to the index for August of the current year to make the calculation.

    The result is the state’s current minimum wage of $13.69 will go up 5.83 percent next year. BLS attributed the increase in the price index to more expensive gas, housing, household furnishings, and food.

    The state minimum wage applies to workers age 16 and older. Under state law, employers can pay 85 percent of the minimum wage to workers ages 14-15. For 2022, the wage for that younger group will be $12.32 per hour.

    Cities are able to set minimum wages higher than the state’s, and both Seattle and Sea Tac have higher wages.

    For overtime exempt employees

    The change in the minimum wage also means an increase in the minimum salary an employee must earn in 2022 to be overtime exempt. This impacts “white collar” positions held by executive, administrative, and professional workers plus computer professionals and outside salespeople.

    Under the state’s rules governing exemptions to the Minimum Wage Act, salaried exempt employees must earn at least a minimum salary that is established as a multiplier of the minimum wage. Therefore, when the minimum wage increases, so does the salary threshold.

    Those rules were updated in 2020. L&I created an eight-year implementation schedule that incrementally raises the multiplier until it reaches 2.5 times in 2028. The pace of the increase is based on the size of the employer.

    For 2022, to be exempt from overtime, an employee must earn at least $1,014.30 a week ($52,743.60 a year), or 1.75 times the minimum wage.

    Computer professionals who are paid by the hour have a different threshold. The new minimums are a part of changes to the overtime rules that took effect July 1, 2020.

    In addition, agricultural workers will be eligible to earn overtime after working more than 55 hours per week, beginning Jan. 1, 2022.

    https://www.lni.wa.gov/news-events/article/?id=21-030


    Hours Worked

    L&I released a revised policy that clarifies the definition of “hours worked” and when employees must be paid for their time, including travel time, training time, meeting time, on-call time, waiting time, and activities before and after work.

    • The definition of hours worked hasn’t changed, but is now divided into three parts: 1. an employee is authorized or required by the employer 2. to be on duty 3. on the employer’s premises or at a prescribed workplace.
       
    • Mandatory security or health screenings before employees enter or exit the workplace are considered “hours worked” and employees must be paid for that time.
       
    • An out-of-town travel compensation policy has been added, explaining that door-to-door travel by non-exempt employees away from their home community (other than normal commuting) is considered hours worked and must be paid.

    Employment Relationships: L&I also adopted a new policy that explains who is considered an “employer” of a worker and which workers are considered “employees” or “independent contractors” under the Washington wage and hour rules. This new policy addresses questions such as: when a corporate  officer, owner, or manager is an “employer” who can be liable for wage and hour compliance, 

    https://www.vigilant.org/employment-law-blog/washington-new-li-wage-and-hour-guidance-for-employers


    Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) issued emergency regulations on July 16, 2021, requiring employers to protect outdoor workers from wildfire smoke.

    In general, covered employers must:

    ·         Include wildfire smoke precautions in their Accident Prevention Program. A template has been provided to guide employers in effectively implementing these precautions.

    ·         Determine employee exposure to PM5 before and periodically during each shift when smoke is present.

    ·         Train employees who work near wildfire smoke with an AQI of 69 (WAQA 173, PM5 20.5 µg/m3) or more.

    ·         Inform employees of available protective measures against wildfire smoke.

    ·         Encourage employees to report worsening air quality and any health effects resulting from poor air quality.

    ·         Be prepared to respond appropriately to any employee with symptoms of wildfire smoke exposure.

    When wildfire smoke conditions are particularly severe (minimum AQI 151, WAQA 173, PM2.5 55.5 µg/m3), employers must:

    ·         Alert employees of the air quality hazard.

    ·         Implement feasible exposure controls to protect workers from wildfire smoke.

    ·         Provide respirators and encourage their voluntary use.

    https://lni.wa.gov/safety-health/safety-topics/topics/wildfire-smoke


    Extreme Heat Protection

    TUMWATER — The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) filed an emergency rule to provide increased protection for employees exposed to extreme heat, including those working in agriculture, construction and other outdoor industries. The emergency Outdoor Heat Exposure rule clarifies proactive steps that employers must take to prevent outdoor workers from suffering heat-related illness.

    The new regulations, which take effect on July 13, are in addition to existing rules. When the temperature is at or above 100 degrees, employers must respond to the extreme heat by:

    ·         Providing shade or another sufficient means for employees to cool down; and

    ·         Ensuring workers have a paid cool-down rest period of at least 10 minutes every two hours.

    When temperatures are at or above 89 degrees, the new rules combined with existing rules require employers to:

    ·         Provide water that is cool enough to drink safely;

    ·         Allow and encourage workers to take additional paid preventative cool-down rest to protect from overheating;

    ·         Be prepared by having a written outdoor heat exposure safety program and providing training to employees; and,

    ·         Respond appropriately to any employee with symptoms of heat-related illness.

    The emergency rules update existing rules that are in place annually from May through the end of September. The existing rules already require ready access to at least one quart of drinking water per worker per hour, an outdoor heat exposure safety program with training, and an appropriate response to workers who are experiencing heat-related illness symptoms.

    L&I will file an official notification for permanent rulemaking. Known as a CR-101, the notification is the first step in the process of updating the existing state Outdoor Heat Exposure rule established in 2008.

    https://www.lni.wa.gov/news-events/article/?id=21-018


    Agricultural Overtime

    The 2021 legislative session included passage of ESSB 5172, a bill expanding the state Minimum Wage Act’s overtime protections to all agricultural workers, including agricultural piece-rate workers. Signed by Gov. Jay Inslee, this new law goes into effect on July 25, 2021 entitling dairy workers to receive overtime pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek and establishing a gradual phase-in period for full overtime eligibility for all other agricultural workers. The phase-in for non-dairy agricultural workers begins Jan. 1, 2022 and becomes fully effective Jan. 1, 2024. During the phase-in period such workers will be eligible for overtime compensation for hours worked over 55 during a workweek beginning Jan. 1, 2022, for all hours worked over 48 beginning Jan. 1, 2023, and for all hours worked over 40 beginning Jan. 1, 2024.
    L&I is currently developing guidance about agricultural overtime. Additional information will be available soon.

    https://lni.wa.gov/workers-rights/agriculture-policies/wages


    PFML Expansion

    ESSB 5097 expands the definition of “family member” for purposes of the state’s Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) program.

    Beginning July 25: You can qualify for family leave if you are caring for someone who has an expectation to rely on you for care—whether you live together or not.

    https://paidleave.wa.gov/question/family-member-definition/


    Washington State Regular Legislative Session

    For more information: https://shrmolympia.shrm.org/statewide-legislative-affairs-updates

    The 2021 Regular Session convened on January 11 and concluded on April 25, 2021.

    Below is a summary of certain key employment law proposals in Washington State, as well as other case law that may affect human resource management in Washington State.

     

    The following bills has been signed into law by the Governor:

     

    Expanding coverage of the paid family and medical leave program

    HB 1073

    Summary:  This bill expands the Washington State Paid Family and Medical Leave definition of a “family member” as an individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with a covered individual is the equivalent of a family member. It also changes the work requirement eligibility from 820 hours to having earned at least $1,000 in the qualifying period. And creates a protected leave status when an employee has worked for current employers for at least 90 days. Also it creates a continuation of benefits status for all employees who are approved for leave.

    Status: Signed by the Governor on April 21st

    Bill Information


    Juneteenth Holiday

    HB 1016

    Summary: This bill would make Juneteenth, June 19th, a legal state holiday.

    Status: Signed by the Governor on May 13th. Chapter 295, 2021 Laws. Effective date 7/25/2021.

    Bill Information


    Concerning Unemployment Benefits

    ESSB 5061

    Summary: This bill adds “Public Health Emergency” as a valid claim for Unemployment Insurance. Adds recognition of federal UI payments and waives certain state requirements accordingly. Adds exception during public health emergency to allow collection for high risk individuals. Changes "good cause" for claims post 4/1/21. Increases minimum amount payable by 5%. When waiting week is paid by feds, employer's experience rating will not be charged. When paid in part, the department may elect whether to charge (same for nonprofits). From March 28, 2020 to May 2, 2020 benefits are not charged to the experience rating of the employer. Limits flat social cost factor through 2025. 5 year "smoothing" of benefit ratio. No solvency surcharge through 2025.

    Status: On February 8th the Governor signed into law. Effective 2/8/21.

    Bill Information


    Concerning the effect of expenditure reduction efforts on retirement benefits for public employees, including those participating in the shared work program.

    SB 5021

    Summary: Any compensation forgone by a member employed by the state or a local government employer during the 2019-2021 and 2021-2023 fiscal biennia as a result of reduced work hours, mandatory leave without pay, temporary layoffs, furloughs, reductions to current pay, or other similar measures resulting from the COVID-19 budgetary crisis, if the reduced compensation is an integral part of the employer's expenditure reduction efforts, as certified by the employer. Reductions to current pay shall not include elimination of previously agreed upon future salary increases. Reduction efforts such as furloughs, reduced work hours, mandatory leave without pay, temporary layoffs,- or other similar situations as contemplated by subsection (15)(c)(iii)of this section do not result in a reduction in service credit that otherwise would have been earned for that month of work, and the member shall receive the full service credit for the hours that were scheduled to be worked before the reduction.

    Status: Signed by the Governor on April 7th. Effective date 7/25/2021.

    Bill Information: https://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=5021&Year=2021&Initiative=false


    Reinstates the State Family Leave Act

    HB 1087

    Summary:mThis bill reinstates the State Family Leave Act that was replaced by WPFML. It establishes that the WPFML did not sever, impair, extinguish, or in any way affect the rights, liabilities, or obligations under chapter 49.78 RCW as it existed prior to January 1, 2020.

    Status: Signed by the Governor on April 16th into law. Effective 4/16/21.

    Bill Information


    Establishing health emergency labor standards.

    SB 5115

    Summary:  During a public health emergency:

    • Creates a presumption of occupational illness for front line employees when positive for an infectious disease.
    • Mandates that employers that require employees to wear PPE must provide that PPE at no cost to the EE.
    • For employers that don’t have such PPE requirements, employers must accommodate the voluntary use of PPE.
    • Provides job protections for employees who raise concerns about an employer’s infection control practices.
    • Provides for employees to be able to bring a civil action against an employer for violations of the above.
    • Modifies the WPFML similar to HB1073.
    • Adds “health emergency pay” during a public health emergency for lower paid frontline workers.
    • Adds employer provided paid sick leave benefits (EPSL and PHEL).

    Status: Signed by the Governor on May 11th. Effective date 5/11/21.

    Bill Information


    Bills vetoed by governor:

    Reporting Occupational Classifications

    2HB 2308

    Summary: Requiring employers to periodically report standard occupational classifications or job titles of workers.

    Industrial Insurance Penalties

    SHB 2409

    Summary: This bill would impose a good faith obligation toward injured workers in the handling of their claims. This new bad faith allegation, which could be made against business owners, retro groups, managers, human resources, vocational counselors, fraud investigators, nurse case managers, etc., would be adjudicated by the Department on very vague standard and be subject to a penalty.

    Relief of Unemployment Benefit Charges

    2HB 2613

    Summary: Grants relief of unemployment benefit charges when discharge is required by law. Allows for employer relief of unemployment insurance benefit charges for claimants unable to satisfy a job prerequisite

    Citizenship/Immigration Status

    ESB 5165

    Summary: Updates WLAD to include discrimination based on citizenship or immigration status.

    Unemployment Benefits

    ESSB 5473

    Summary: Modifies the unemployment statutes to allow someone to get benefits if their schedule changes and they are not able to take a new position due to child care conflicts. There are several concerns with this bill. It is not clear if the employers experience rating will be affected by the claim.

    Pregnancy Discrimination

    SB 6034

    Summary: Complaints alleging pregnancy discrimination must be filed with the HRC within one year of the alleged unfair practice, instead of within six months.

     


    Long Term Care Trust Act

    LTC Trust Act mandates a payroll tax for Washington-based employees to pay for LTC expenses.

    CURRENT STATUS: The Commission tasked with creating the Act’s structure is working on this right now, reviewing assumptions, projecting future costs and exposures, setting up the administration, and enforcement provisions. One of those key provisions is the ability for a grandfathered group of people to opt out of the program.

    FUNDING: The tax is scheduled to be .58% of payroll, or 58 cents per $100 of income, so someone making $100,000 per year would pay $580 per year in taxes. This payroll tax starts collecting in January 2022 and is scheduled to be paid entirely by the employee. The employer can elect to pay this tax on behalf of the employee, but unlike FICA and PFML, there is no obligation to pay a portion.

    COVERAGE: In return, people who pay into the system for 10 years and remain in Washington can receive up to $100 per day, up to $36,500 lifetime, in LTC benefits. The coverage is triggered by needing support prescribed by a physician for activities such as bathing, dressing, eating, taking medication, etc. The intent of this coverage is to help with in-home or assisted living expenses associated with being unable to take care of oneself without help.

    https://www.psfinc.com/articles/making-sense-of-washingtons-new-long-term-care-law/


    State Overtime Exemption for Agricultural Workers Deemed Unconstitutional

    The Washington State Supreme Court found unconstitutional a provision exempting agricultural workers from the overtime pay requirement set out in the Washington Minimum Wage Act.

    The Washington Supreme Court did not find support for DeRuyter's assertions. DeRuyter dairy workers milked thousands of cows per shift, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, unlike piece-rate seasonal workers. Further, the court noted that other industries employing seasonal workers, such as retail, were not exempt from the overtime protections.

    Finally, the legislative history offered by DeRuyter did not reference seasonality or the variations of agricultural work as considered during the passage of the Minimum Wage Act. As such, the Washington Supreme Court found the agricultural workers exemption as applied to dairy workers to be unconstitutional.

    Martinez-Cuevas v. DeRuyter Brothers Dairy Inc., Wash., No. 96267-7 (Nov. 5, 2020).

    Professional Pointer: Although the Fair Labor Standards Act exempts certain categories from its overtime provisions, such as farmworkers and employees of movie theaters, some states may not recognize the same exemption. An employer must comply with the most stringent of the federal or state law.

    https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/state-and-local-updates/pages/court-report-state-overtime-exemption-unconstitutional.aspx


    Washington Is Developing Wildfire Smoke Worker-Safety Rules

    Smoke from Western wildfires caused Washington state to experience some of the worst air quality in the world this year, which increased health risks to outdoor workers. In response, the state's Department of Labor & Industries' Division of Occupational Safety and Health (L&I) announced that it is developing new workplace health and safety rules on wildfire smoke exposure hazards, particularly in the construction and agriculture industries.

    Over the next several months, and following issuance of a Notice of Intent (CR-101), L&I will hold meetings to gather information from stakeholders and begin drafting an occupational health standard on wildfire smoke to be included in chapter 296-62 of the Washington Administrative Code.

    While some requirements of the rule are unknown, the new rule will likely address several key issues, including:

    • Identification of potentially harmful worker exposures to wildfire smoke and related air quality conditions.
    • Communication with employees on air quality conditions, exposure risks, and required controls.
    • Employee training and instruction.
    • Required engineering and administrative controls to address potentially harmful exposures.

    https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/state-and-local-updates/pages/washington-is-developing-wildfire-smoke-worker-safety-rules.aspx


    Background Checks: Nursing Homes, Assisted Living Facilities, and Early Childhood Educators

    Several amendments related to Certificates of Parental Improvement that affect Nursing Homes, Assisted Living Facilities, and Early Childhood Educators will go into effect on January 1 as part of House Bill 1645. Sections 5 and 6 of that bill amend current law to prohibit nursing homes and assisted living facilities from denying employment to care providers where a background check reveals that the individual has a finding of child abuse or neglect in their record, but has since obtained a certificate of parental improvement. Section (3)(1)(b) prohibits the state from denying licensing to an early childhood educator under those circumstances. The text of the bill can be found here.


    Refinery Workers

    As part of the phase-in of training and safety requirements, RCW 49.860 (ESHB 1817) requires contractors and subcontractors in Washington refineries and chemical plants to employ 20 percent journey-level workers who have graduated from state-approved apprenticeship programs by 2021. The required percentage increases to require 35 percent to be apprenticeship graduates by 2022, 45 percent by 2023, and 60 percent by 2024. More information can be found here.


    2021 Employer Dates for ACA Reporting Requirements

    The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires employers to annually submit important Affordable Care Act (ACA) information to the agency and their employees as part of the ACA’s employer mandate. Under the mandate, organizations with 50 or more full-time employees and full-time-equivalent employees are required to offer minimum essential coverage to at least 95 percent of their full-time workforce (and their dependents) or be subject to Internal Revenue Code (IRC) 4980H penalties.

    Below are 2021 employer dates as they apply to ACA reporting for the 2020 tax year:

    • Feb. 28, 2021. The deadline to file paper forms 1094-C and 1095-C with the IRS for the 2020 tax year. This applies to employers with fewer than 250 total form counts who can elect to paper file their ACA information filings with the IRS.
    • March 2, 2021. The deadline to furnish the 1095-C forms to employees for the 2021 tax year, extended from Jan. 31. Employers must distribute 1095-C forms to all ACA full-time employees. Failure to do so could result in a financial penalty under IRC Section 6722.
    • March 31, 2021. The deadline to electronically file forms 1094-C and 1095-C for the 2020 tax year.
    • July 31, 2021. The deadline for self-insured plans to file Form 720 for the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) for 2020. PCORI was renewed through 2029.
    • Aug. 1, 2021. The first of many late-filing deadlines for the 2020 tax year. Employers that fail to file their 1094-C and 1095-C forms for 2020 by Aug. 1 could be subject to ACA penalty assessments from the IRS under IRC 6721/6722. After Aug. 1, late-filing penalties for not submitting ACA information to the IRS by the filing deadline may result in fines doubling for each return not yet filed with the IRS.

    For more information about the ACA compliance and reporting in 2021, visit the IRS website.

    https://lp.shrm.org/index.php/email/emailWebview


    NEW 2021 W4: 

    https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw4.pdf


    WA STATE 2021 Employment Law Changes:

    • L&I has determined the minimum wage for 2021 will be $13.69 an hour, up from $13.50 an hour in 2020.
    • WA overtime rules have changed. I’ve attached a PDF which contains the key facts of the changes.
      • Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, employees at small businesses will have to earn at least 1.5 times the state minimum wage ($821.40 a week/$42,712.80 a year) to be exempt.
      • Employees at large businesses will have to earn at least 1.75 times the state minimum wage ($958.30 a week/$49,831.60 a year) to be exempt.
      • To learn more, please visit this link (courses, webinars, fact sheet): https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/WADLI/bulletins/2a3b068

    FEDERAL 2021 Employment Law Changes:

    • Employers can choose to display only the last four digits of an employee’s Social Security number on their Form W-2, to reduce the risk of identity theft.
    • The minimum wage for federal contract workers increases to $10.95 per hour.
    • Due to COVID-19, the EEOC in 2020 waived its requirement that private sector employers submit EEO-1 data. In 2021, however, private sector employers with 100 or more employees, along with employers with 50 or more employees and at least one federal contract or subcontract worth at least $50,000 must submit their 2019 and 2020 EEO-1 surveys. The deadline for submission hasn’t been set, but it’s expected to be after March 31, 2021.

    FLSA: New Overtime Rule (1/1/20)

    The deadline for employers to comply with the new federal overtime rule is approaching rapidly. Before key workers leave for the holidays, businesses should ensure they have a plan in place to manage pay and expectations.

    "Some employers may have put off making changes, thinking that a court may stop this law from proceeding," noted Hagood Tighe, an attorney with Fisher Phillips in Columbia, S.C. "Employers cannot afford to wait any longer."

    To be exempt from overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act's (FLSA's) white-collar exemptions, employees must be paid a salary of at least the threshold amount and meet certain duties tests. If they are paid less or do not meet the tests, they must be paid 1.5 times their regular hourly rate for hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek.

    The new rule will raise the salary threshold to $684 a week ($35,568 annualized) from $455 a week ($23,660 annualized). Nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments, including commissions, paid on an annual or more frequent basis may be used to satisfy up to 10 percent of the standard salary level. The U.S. Department of Labor said the rule will make about 1.3 million workers newly eligible for overtime pay.

    In addition to raising the salary cutoff for exempt workers, the new rule raises the threshold for highly compensated employees from $100,000 a year to $107,432, of which $684 must be paid weekly on a salary or fee basis.

    Employers should note that cities and states can set higher exempt salary thresholds, and those rates may be rising in 2020, too.


    FLSA January 1, 2020, Salary Increase: Impact Analysis Guide and Calculator

    On Sep. 24, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a final rule announcing a new salary threshold of $684 a week ($35,568 annualized) for the Fair Labor Standard Act's (FLSA's) white-collar exemption from overtime pay, effective Jan. 1, 2020. These new requirements apply to any position classified as exempt under the executive, administrative or professional exemption already subject to salary requirements (some professional exemptions have no salary requirement, such as for teachers, doctors, lawyers, etc., and they are unaffected by the new requirements).

    To prepare for these changes, employers can use this guide to review their exempt positions currently paid below $684 per week and determine the best strategy to adopt to remain in compliance.

    Note: Three states—Alaska, California and New York—have exempt salary requirements that already exceed the newly proposed federal requirement; therefore, no salary adjustments are required in those states. In January 2020, Maine’s salary threshold will rise to $36,000 annually. While all other states currently either follow the federal guidelines or have lower salary requirements than the proposed rate, state wage increases need to be monitored closely to ensure local compliance. See, Employers Can't Ignore State Overtime Exemption Rules.

    Use our spreadsheet to calculate the financial impact based on the options below for all your affected employees: shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/hr-forms/pages/flsa-proposed-salary-increase-calculator.aspx .


    Do you have staff in Seattle? Here is some information on the new minimum wage.

    https://lni.wa.gov/workers-rights/wages/minimum-wage/


    The Family Leave Act sunsets on December 31, 2019 and all benefits associated with this statute will no longer be applicable. Workers who need leave after December 31, 2019, may apply for Paid Family Medical Leave (PFML), a new insurance program administered by the Employment Security Department. Workers may apply for PFML after January 1, 2020. Visit paidleave.wa.gov for more details. Applications for benefits should be available on their website in January 2020.  

    https://lni.wa.gov/workers-rights/leave/family-leave-act


    IRS Overhauls Form W-4 for 2020 Employee Withholding

    The new form allows for more-accurate withholding, greater privacy for employees

    By Stephen Miller, CEBS December 9, 2019

    In Dec. 5, the IRS released the long-awaited final version of the 2020 Form W-4, retitled Employee's Withholding Certificate, with major revisions designed to make accurate income-tax withholding easier for employees starting next year. In August, the IRS posted FAQs about the changes incorporated in the revised form.

    These are the key points employers should note, the IRS said when the final version of the 2020 Form W-4 was released:

    • All new employees hired as of Jan. 1, 2020, must complete the new form.
    • Current employees are not required to complete a new form but can choose to adjust their withholding based on the new form.
    • Any adjustments made after Jan. 1, 2020, must be made using the new form.
    • Employers can still compute withholding based on information from employees' most recently submitted Form W-4 if employees choose not to adjust their withholding using the revised form.

    The IRS updated the W-4 form to reflect tax code changes ushered in by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which took effect last year. Unlike the 2019 Form W-4, the revised form excludes withholding allowances, which were tied to the personal exemption amount—$4,050 for 2017—and are now suspended (hence the form's name change from Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate). It also replaces complicated worksheets with more straightforward questions.

    W-4 form 2020-crop2.jpg

    "The primary goals of the new design are to provide simplicity, accuracy and privacy for employees while minimizing burden for employers and payroll processors," IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said. Changes made since the last draft include minor edits and added language on page 2 under "Your Privacy."

    "Employers can ask employees hired before 2020 to use the new form, but [employees] are not required to do so," said Jon Barber, senior vice president of tax policy and research at Ayco, a financial counseling and investment management firm. Employers should, however, "explain that withholding will continue based on the form they previously submitted and may not be as accurate as using the new W-4." 

    Alice Jacobsohn, senior manager of government relations for the American Payroll Association (APA), a payroll industry trade group, noted that:

    • If a newly hired employee in 2020 does not complete a 2020 Form W-4, the employer instructions state that employers should treat them as a single filer with no other adjustments.
    • If an employee only completes step 1 and 5, the employer is instructed to withhold based on the identified withholding status with no other adjustments.

    As before, employees' tax liability is based on combined income from all sources, including second jobs, investment income and a spouse's earnings. "Additional tax may be due at the time of filing if withholding is not sufficient to meet tax obligations," Barber explained. So employees may want to make adjustments to reflect these additional incomes, deductions and credits.

    [SHRM members-only HR Q&A: Are employers required to have employees complete a new W‑4 each year?]

    What's Changed

    The 2020 Form W-4 is presented on a single, full page, followed by instructions, worksheets and tables. In place of withholding allowances, the new W-4 includes a process with five possible steps for declaring additional income, so employees can adjust their withholding with varying levels of accuracy, privacy and ease of use.

    The five steps are:

    Step 1. Enter personal information.

    Step 2. Indicate multiple jobs or if spouse works.

    Step 3. Claim dependents.

    Step 4. Make other adjustments including for:

    • Step 4(a): Investment and retirement income.
    • Step 4(b): Deductions other than the standard deduction.
    • Step 4(c): Any extra tax withholding per pay period.

    Step 5. Sign the form.


    The IRS explained that:

    • The only two steps required for all employees are Step 1, where they enter personal information such as their name and filing status, and Step 5, where they sign the form.
    • If Steps 2, 3 or 4 apply to employees and they choose to provide that information, their withholding will more accurately match their tax liability if they complete them. Employees, however, can adjust their withholding in Step 4(c) without sharing additional information.

    "If an employee uses the IRS Tax Estimator or the Multiple Jobs Worksheet to calculate income from another job, the amount is placed in step 4(c)," Jacobsohn said. "Employees who just want additional withholding should also use 4(c)."

    The space below step 4(c) is used for employees to identify that they are nonresident aliens or are exempt from paying taxes. "If you use an electronic form, developers are instructed to provide a place to enter the information, such as a check box," Jacobsohn said.

    An important consideration for HR and payroll departments, said Jamal Ayyad, a small business tax advocate at online payroll firm SurePayroll, is that "they may want to let new employees take the form home rather than complete it on their first day as is customary, because tax information is required that the employee might not have readily available."

    'HR may want to let new employees take the form home rather than complete it on their first day.'

    Easier for Employees

    "Generally, the new Form W-4 is an improvement for employees," said Pete Isberg, vice president of government relations at payroll and HR services firm ADP. "For example, previously, employees would complete a difficult worksheet to convert expected deductions to a number of withholding allowances. With the new form, they'll just enter their full-year expected deductions over the standard deduction amount."

    Not requiring employees to submit the new W-4 will ease HR's burden, but it also means that "employers will need to program their payroll system to accommodate the existing withholding calculation, as well as the new method," Barber said. However, "companies' payroll software will not necessarily require two different systems for the two different forms, since the same set of withholding tables will be used for both," he explained.

    Addressing Privacy Concerns

    With the new version of the form, taxpayers can "indicate their desire to have more tax withheld without having to share details with their employer," said Mike Trabold, director of compliance at Paychex, an HR technology services and payroll firm. Although this may lead to too much withholding for some taxpayers, "it will help address concerns of those who prefer to get a refund check every year or who may have had to unexpectedly pay tax when filing this year."

    A worksheet to help taxpayers with the new form "will not be provided to the employer, further assuring privacy," Trabold noted.

    Spread the Word

    The About Form W-4 page on www.irs.gov has additional information about the revised form. In addition, the APA drafted a sample letter outlining key changes to Form W-4, with basic information about the new steps employees will take to complete the form.

    "Employers can freely customize and share this letter with employees," the APA said. The letter also recommends that employees perform a "paycheck checkup" using the IRS's Tax Withholding Estimator (see below).

    An Updated IRS Tax Estimator

    Employees can use the IRS Tax Withholding Estimator to help them complete the new Form W‑4. The calculator, updated in August with several new functions, is designed to help employees estimate any additional withholding. By using this tool, which the IRS says is mobile-friendly and uses plain language, employees "can more easily account for higher marginal tax brackets where both spouses work, additional income, and credits and deductions, and predict a tax refund or amount owed, as well as align their withholding as closely as possible to their actual tax obligation," Barber noted.

    It's especially important to use the estimator, the IRS advised, if an employee:

    • Faced an unexpected tax bill or a penalty after filing a tax return last year.
    • Has or will experience a change in marital status, dependents, income or jobs this year.

    Said the American Payroll Association's Alice Jacobsohn, "For employees starting a new job in 2020 or whose tax situation has changed, using the IRS's Tax Withholding Estimator is a smart way to figure out their taxes and complete the form."

    Related SHRM Articles:

    2020 Payroll Taxes Will Hit Higher IncomesSHRM Online, October 2019

    IRS Issues Draft Form W-4 Overhaul for 2020SHRM Online, June 2019

    At Tax Time, Urge Review of Paycheck Withholding and Retirement SavingsSHRM Online, January 2019


    New Overtime Rule Raises Salary Cut-Off to $35,568

    By Lisa Nagele-Piazza, J.D., SHRM-SCPSeptember 24, 2019

    Employees who make less than $35,568 are now eligible for overtime pay under a final rule issued today by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The new rate will take effect Jan. 1, 2020.

    To be exempt from overtime under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employees must be paid a salary of at least the threshold amount and meet certain duties tests. If they are paid less or do not meet the tests, they must be paid 1 1/2 times their regular hourly rate for hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek.

    The new rule will raise the salary threshold to $684 a week ($35,568 annualized) from $455 a week ($23,660 annualized). A blocked Obama-era rule would have doubled the threshold, but a federal judge held that the DOL exceeded its authority by raising the rate too high.

    The new rule is expected to prompt employers to reclassify more than a million currently exempt workers to nonexempt status and raise pay for others above the new threshold. 

    The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is pleased that the DOL has finalized the overtime rule. "Employees and employers have been waiting for an overtime salary adjustment for over 10 years," said Nancy Hammer, SHRM's vice president of regulatory and judicial engagement. "Today's rule provides important clarity for the workplace on FLSA implementation," she said.

    Here's what employers need to know about the new rule.

    The Details

    Under the new rule, nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) paid on an annual or more frequent basis may be used to satisfy up to 10 percent of the standard salary level.

    In addition to raising the salary cutoff for exempt workers, the new rule raises the threshold for highly compensated employees from $100,000 a year to $107,432 (of which $684 must be paid weekly on a salary or fee basis). The increase is about $40,000 less than what the DOL initially proposed because it is based on the 80th percentile, rather than the 90th percentile, of all full-time salaried workers' earnings nationwide.

    For the FLSA's executive, administrative and professional exemptions—the so-called white-collar exemptions—employees must perform certain duties and earn at least the salary threshold. But under a special rule, highly compensated employees are eligible for exempt status if they meet a reduced duties test as follows:

    • The employee's primary duty must be office or nonmanual work.
    • The employee must "customarily and regularly" perform at least one of the bona fide exempt duties of an executive, administrative or professional employee.

    Employers should note that the rule doesn't make any changes to the duties tests.

    Also, unlike the overtime rule that President Barack Obama's administration put forward in 2016, the new rule doesn't include automatic adjustments to the exempt salary threshold.

    The Obama administration sought to automatically adjust the threshold every three years to represent the 40th percentile of earnings for full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage census region.

    Employers likely will be pleased that the new rule doesn't call for automatic adjustments to the salary threshold, as many believe the marketplace—rather than the federal government—should dictate appropriate salary levels, said Josh Woodard, an attorney with Snell & Wilmer in Phoenix. 

    However, the DOL "intends to update these thresholds more regularly in the future," according to the final rule.

    Review Job Descriptions and Budgets

    Employers should immediately pull data for exempt workers earning below the threshold, attorneys said.

    "Review your budgets, consider what positions you might restructure, flag whom you might reclassify to nonexempt or give a salary increase, and think about when, practically speaking, you should implement changes," said Caroline Brown, an attorney with Fisher Phillips in Atlanta.

    Román D. Hernández, an attorney with Troutman Sanders in Portland, Ore., said employers should forecast financial ramifications for changes in labor costs necessitated by changes in the rules.

    Employers also should weigh the cost of raising employee salaries above the new threshold against the cost of reclassifying employees as nonexempt and paying overtime, he said. "That is an individual workforce determination that should be made in consultation with HR professionals and outside counsel to ensure compliance with the new rules."

    Meeting the salary cutoff is just one requirement for classifying workers as exempt. Employers should also take the time to review workers' job duties to ensure that they satisfy the applicable exemption's criteria.

    The white-collar exemptions each have slightly different duties tests:

    • Executive exemption. The employee's primary duty must be managing the enterprise or a department or subdivision of the enterprise. The employee must customarily and regularly direct the work of at least two employees and have the authority to hire or fire workers (or the employee's suggestions and recommendations as to hiring, firing or changing the status of other employees must be given particular weight).
    • Administrative exemption. The employee's primary duty must be office or nonmanual work that is directly related to the management or general business operations of the employer or the employer's customers. The employee's primary duty also must include the exercise of discretion and independent judgment with respect to matters of significance.
    • Professional exemption. The employee's primary duty must be work requiring advanced knowledge in a field of science or learning that is customarily acquired by prolonged, specialized, intellectual instruction and study.

    Although the changes to the overtime rule are all about salary, the upcoming adjustments provide a good opportunity for employers to look at the job duties for their lowest exempt pay bands and make sure they actually qualify, said Tammy McCutchen, an attorney with Littler in Washington, D.C. "It's a great time to correct errors on the job-duties side."

    [SHRM members-only toolkit: Determining Overtime Eligibility in the United States]

    Hernández noted that, in general, it's a good idea for employers to periodically review job descriptions and ensure that they are up-to-date and accurate.

    Develop a Training and Communication Strategy

    If employers decide to reclassify employees to nonexempt status, they will need to track affected workers' work time and pay overtime premiums for all hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek.

    Employers will need to develop a communication strategy and make sure that reclassified employees know they are not being demoted, McCutchen said. Be clear that these changes are based on new government rules.

    In addition, employees who will be required to track their hours for the first time—as well as their managers—will need training on time-keeping procedures, she added.

    Employers should evaluate their systems for time-keeping, tracking overtime and paying bonuses, Hernández said. They should also develop plans and procedures to manage or limit overtime hours worked by newly nonexempt workers, he suggested.

    Brown noted that taking some initial steps sooner rather than later can go a long way toward triaging potential issues and creating a smoother transition plan.

    [Visit SHRM's resource page on the FLSA Overtime Rule.]


    Employers cannot ask applicants about salary history under changes to state law

    July 25, 2019                                                                                                    #19-019

    TUMWATER — Changes to Washington’s Equal Pay and Opportunities Act will add additional protections for employees and job applicants. The updated law that takes effect on July 28 bars employers from requesting a job applicant’s wage or salary history, except under certain circumstances.

    The law also makes it illegal, in most cases, for employers to request wage or salary history from a previous employer before offering an applicant a job and negotiating salary.

    Washington is the third West Coast state to pass legislation prohibiting such inquiries, joining California and Oregon.

    "Washington is consistently ranked a top state to work and to do business," Governor Jay Inslee said. "Our commitment to ensuring prosperity is shared by everyone is key to that success. Yet, for too long, wage disparities have continued between individuals doing equal work. The protections established in this law are the next step toward finally leveling the playing field."

    Equal pay for equal work

    Under the changes, current employees who are offered an internal transfer, a new position or a promotion must be shown the new job’s wage scale or salary range if they request it.

    If no wage scale or salary range exists, the employer must show the employee “the minimum wage or salary expectation” that was set before the job was posted or a transfer or promotion was offered.

    Employers must also show job applicants the minimum wage or salary of the position they are applying for if they request it after being offered the position.

    The ban on requesting salary history applies to all Washington employers, regardless of size. The requirement to disclose salary information to certain applicants and employees applies only to Washington employers with 15 or more workers.

    “A gender pay gap is simply unacceptable; people should expect equal pay for equal work,” said L&I Director Joel Sacks. “Employees and job applicants will now have access to more information about how much jobs pay, and greater protections to make sure they’re being paid fairly.”

    The Washington State Legislature updated the state’s pay equity law in 2018 with passage of the Equal Pay and Opportunities Act that prohibits gender pay discrimination and promotes fairness among workers by addressing business practices that contribute to gender pay gaps. The most recent updates were passed during the 2019 session.

    Rights for both current employees and job applicants

    If employees or job applicants believe their rights have been violated, they can file a complaint with the state Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).

    Employees can file a complaint if their current or former employer has:

    • Provided them with unequal compensation compared to other employees who are similarly employed, based on gender.
    • Limited or denied their career advancement opportunities, based on gender.
    • Prohibited them from discussing wages.
    • Not provided wage or salary information for a new position upon request.
    • Retaliated against them for filing a complaint or exercising protected rights under the Equal Pay and Opportunities Act.

    Job applicants can file a complaint if an employer has:

    • Sought their wage or salary history.
    • Required that their wage or salary history meet certain criteria — such as requiring a minimum salary amount in a previous position to apply for a new position.
    • Not provided minimum wage or salary information upon request for a position offered to them.

    L&I recommends that Washington employers review job applications and other hiring documentation to confirm that any requests for or references to job applicants’ salary history are removed. Employers should also ensure they can provide specific information about the minimum wages or salaries, or wage scales or salary ranges to applicants and employees upon request. 

    To file a complaint, go to www.Lni.wa.gov/EqualPay. For more information, contact L&I’s Employment Standards Program at 1-866-219-7321.


    Washington State Proposal Would Radically Increase Exempt Salary Threshold

    By Dan Thieme and Will Kim © LittlerJune 17, 2019

    On June 5, the Washington Department of Labor and Industries issued proposed amendments to the state's white-collar overtime exemption regulations.

    Both under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Washington state law, employers generally must pay exempt employees a salary of a specified minimum amount, and the employees must perform exempt duties. 

    If adopted and not successfully challenged in court, the proposed amendments would increase the minimum salary level necessary for most exemptions to apply in Washington to an initial rate of $49,140 a year effective July 1, 2020 ($35,100 a year for employers with 50 or fewer employees in Washington), which will ramp up to $70,200 a year, plus consumer price index (CPI) adjustments, for all employers effective Jan. 1, 2026. 

    For the exemption applicable to computer professionals, which both the federal and state laws permit to be paid by the hour instead of via salary, the minimum for employees paid hourly would increase to $37.13 an hour, effective July 1, 2020, and for employers with more than 50 employees in Washington, the rate will rise to $47.25 an hour, plus CPI adjustments, for all employers effective Jan. 1, 2022.

    The proposed amendments would also amend the duties tests under Washington state law to conform to the federal FLSA duties tests, except that the amendments would continue to leave Washington without a highly compensated employee exemption.

    Proposed Thresholds for Exempt Status

    For the executive, administrative and professional exemptions, the proposed minimum salary basis and fee basis rates are:

    Date

    Minimum Salary/Fee Rate

    (More than 50 Washington Employees)

    Minimum Salary/Fee Rate

    (50 or Fewer Washington Employees)

    July 1, 2020

    $49,140/year

    (The new rate currently being proposed under the FLSA is $35,308/year)

    $35,100/year

    (The new rate currently being proposed under the FLSA is $35,308/year)

    January 1, 2021

    $56,160/year + CPI adjustment

    $49,140/year + CPI adjustment

    January 1, 2022

    $63,180/year + CPI adjustment

    $56,160/year + CPI adjustment

    January 1, 2023

    $63,180/year + CPI adjustment

    $63,180/year + CPI adjustment

    January 1, 2024

    $63,180/year + CPI adjustment

    $63,180/year + CPI adjustment

    January 1, 2025

    $70,200/year + CPI adjustment

    $63,180/year + CPI adjustment

    January 1, 2026

    $70,220/year + CPI adjustment

    $70,220/year + CPI adjustment

    For the hourly computer professional exemption, the proposed minimum hourly rates are:

    Date

    Minimum Hourly Rate

    (More than 50 Washington Employees)

    Minimum Hourly Rate

    (50 or Fewer Washington Employees)

    July 1, 2020

    $37.13/hour

    (vs. the FLSA rate of $27.63/hour)

    $27.63/hour

    (matches the current Washington and FLSA rates)

    January 1, 2021

    $47.25/hour + CPI adjustment

    $37.13/hour + CPI adjustment

    January 1, 2022

    $47.25/hour + CPI adjustment

    $47.25/hour + CPI adjustment

    For the outside sales exemption that is available under both the FLSA and Washington state law, there would continue to be no minimum pay rate under the FLSA or Washington state law. The proposed amendments would retain a unique Washington requirement, however, that outside salespeople be compensated on a guaranteed salary, commission or fee basis and be advised of their status as outside sales employees.

    For the professional exemption for teachers, the proposed amendments would require payment on a salary or fee basis, but without mandating a minimum pay rate. The FLSA does not specify a form or minimum amount of payment for exempt teachers.

    Proposed Changes to the Duties Tests

    The proposed amendments would amend the Washington duties tests to bring the state regulations into conformity with the revised duties tests adopted under the FLSA in 2004. As already noted, however, the proposed amendments would continue to leave Washington without a highly compensated employee exemption.

    Deadline for Comments

    Comments on the proposed rule amendments are due by Sept. 6. The proposal has a projected adoption date of Dec. 3.

    Dan Thieme and Will Kim are attorneys with Littler in Seattle. © 2019 Littler. All rights reserved. Reposted with permission. 


    EEO-1 Pay Data Reports Due Sept. 30

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) told a federal judge 4/3/2019 that it will require employers to turn over pay data, broken down by race, gender and ethnicity, by Sept. 30. EEOC Acting Chair Victoria Lipnic extended the reporting deadline “to accommodate the significant practical challenges” for the agency to collect the pay data, according to a document filed with the court.


    Bill to strengthen Paid Family and Medical Leave program signed into law

     

    OLYMPIA - A bill to provide updates to Washington’s new Paid Family and Medical Leave program was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday. House Bill 1399 makes several technical corrections to the new program, and clarifies a key provision related to supplementing wages while an employee is out on leave. The Employment Security Department operates the program.

    “Our Paid Family and Medical Leave program is the best in the nation and was developed to work for both employers and employees – this bill only enhances that,” said Employment Security Commissioner, Suzi LeVine. “By allowing employers the option to supplement an employee’s Paid Family and Medical Leave benefit with other paid leave, many workers won’t be faced with losing income while taking care of themselves or a family member in a critical or challenging time of their lives.”

    The bill, sponsored by Rep. June Robinson, D-Everett, passed with wide bipartisan support and with no opposition from stakeholders in Senate or House committees. More information about Paid Family and Medical Leave can be found at paidleave.wa.gov.


    First Quarter 2019: Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Premium Payments and Reporting

    www.paidleave.wa.gov.

    The Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) announced that the deadline for submitting first quarter payments and reports for the Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave premiums has been delayed. The first quarter of 2019 premium payments and reports will be due by July 31, 2019.

    Information about the new timeline and related requirements is available at https://www.paidleave.wa.gov/employers. A copy of the official announcement is available at https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/WAESD/bulletins/2361e30

    What you need to know.

    • Separate reports and payments for the first and second quarters of 2019 are due by July 31, 2019. This change is for 2019 only.
    • The ESD will not assess fines or penalties for reporting and remitting the first quarter by July 31, 2019.
    • Eligibility for the 2019 Small Business Exemption from employer Medical Leave Insurance premiums will still be determined using the first quarter reporting.
    • Paid Family and Medical Leave Benefits will continue to be available to eligible employees on January 1, 2020.

    Image depicts a woman worker in an ice cream shop and the Paid Family and Medical Leave wordmark

    Image depicts the timeline of phase four rulemaking

    We filed the formal proposed rules (CR102) for phase four of Paid Family and Medical Leave rulemaking.

    Phase four covers:

    • Continuation of benefits
    • Fraud

    Filing the CR102 opens the formal comment period on this phase of rules. The preliminary draft of our required significance analysis is also available for public comment.

    The rulemaking hearings for phase four will be on May 22 and May 29, 2019. Hearing details, including the agenda and remote participation information, are posted on the meetings page of our public comment portal.

    You can participate in rulemaking by:

    • Attending a public hearing (either in-person or remotely) to provide oral comments. Visit the meetings page of our public comment portal for participation details.
    • Submitting written comments on our public comment portal. Comments will be accepted online until 5:00 p.m. on May 29.

    Phase two rules post-adoption notice

    On December 3, 2018, new rules related to phase two of the Paid Family and Medical Leave program took effect. The rules provide guidance on:

    1. Employer Responsibilities;
    2. Small business assistance;
    3. Penalties;
    4. Certain aspects of voluntary plans; and
    5. Other topics to implement the program.

    Because of these rules, many advances are being made to help employers and employees navigate our program requirements. Several high-level updates are below to help employers plan and prepare.

    System updates based on phase two rules:

    • Employer responsibilities, penalties, and audits: The system is designed to accept wage reports, collect premium payments, and assess penalties for incomplete and untimely report filing. Small employers will also be able to contribute payment for the medical portion of premiums and to apply for grants online once employees begin receiving benefits in 2020.
    • Notice: We are working to have the notice to employee and common area program notifications available by the end of 2019.
    • Voluntary plans: Employers can now apply for a voluntary plan and remit the $250 application fee through paidleave.wa.gov/voluntary-plans.

    Our communications team is rolling out employer information to customers as the program develops. If you have questions about implementing these rules or need more information, please email paidleave@esd.wa.gov.

    Any person may petition the agency to initiate a change in rule. Petitions can be found on the Office of Financial Management’s website. Completed forms can be submitted electronically to Rules@esd.wa.gov.

    This communication constitutes the post-adoption notice required by RCW 34.05.362.

    In case you missed it: Q1 reporting deadline changed to July 31

    Image depicts timeline of program implementation

    On March 13, Paid Family and Medical Leave announced that the reporting timeline for the first quarter of 2019 has been changed to July 2019. 

    • Beginning July 1, employers will submit both Q1 and Q2 reports and premium payments through our online customer management system.
    • This timeline extension will not affect the availability of benefits. Eligible employees can begin applying for benefits in January 2020.

    For more information:

    paidleave.wa.gov


     

    Paid Family and Medical Leave has arrived!

    Posted on behalf of the Washington State Employment Security Department

    In 2018:

    • Close to 1 million pieces of direct mail were sent to employers.
    • ESD presented at more than 260 events across the state.
    • Had 6,739,408 impressions from our ads between the end of Oct. through mid-Dec.
    • Had more than 150,000 visitors to www.paidleave.wa.gov in Dec. alone.

    Get ready to be there for care.

    Since Nov. 30, we've sent out one email per week to over 630,000 employers in Washington outlining what they need to do on Jan. 1, 2019.

    Each of the emails are posted in the Newsroom on our website. 

    Nov. 30, 2018: Important info for your business: New program starts 1/1/2019

    Dec. 6, 2018: Paid Family and Medical Leave premium collection starts 1/1/2019

    Dec. 13, 2018: Start tracking hours and wages on Jan. 1, 2019

    Dec. 20, 2018: Let your employees know about the premium deduction coming on Jan. 1, 2019

    Dec. 28, 2018: Final Reminder! Premium deduction coming on Jan. 1, 2019

    If you haven’t already, now is a great time to download our employer toolkit and review our Employer Page for details about premium collection that started on Jan.1.

    Rulemaking update

    Phase 3 CR-102 Filed

    ESD filed the formal proposed rules (CR-102) for phase 3 of Paid Family and Medical Leave rulemaking.

    Phase Three covers:

    • Benefit applications
    • Benefit eligibility

    Filing the CR-102 opens the formal comment period on this phase of rules. The preliminary draft of our required significance analysis is also available for public comment.

    The rulemaking hearings for Phase Three will be on 3/13/2019 and 3/18/2019. Hearing details, including the agenda and remote participation information, are posted on the meetings page of our public comment portal.

    You can participate in rulemaking by:

    • Attending the public hearing (either in-person or remotely) on 3/13/2019 or 3/18/2019 to provide oral comments.
    • Submitting written comments on our public comment portal. Comments will be accepted online until 5:00 PM on 3/18/2019.

    Phase 5 CR-101 Filed

    ESD filed the preproposal statement of inquiry (CR-101) for the phase 5 of Paid Family and Medical Leave rulemaking.

    Phase 5 covers:

    • Job Protection
    • Benefit Overpayments
    • Miscellaneous

    The CR-101 announces that an agency is planning to write rules on a subject and invites the public to take part in the rulemaking process by submitting ideas or comments about how the rules should be drafted.

    Following the CR-101, ESD holds a public listening session to gather stakeholder input on draft rules. We strongly encourage public participation. The first listening session for Phase 5 will be at 9:00 AM on 1/11/2019 in our Lacey office. Listening session details, including the agenda and remote participation information, are forthcoming on the meetings page of our public comment portal.


    County unemployment numbers for November 2018 released today

    OLYMPIA – County unemployment rates and employment data for November 2018 are now available online. Use the historical estimates report  to view prior months’ data.

    Please keep in mind:  Unemployment rates at the county level are not seasonally adjusted because the sample size is too small to accommodate that additional analysis. Therefore, they should not be compared directly to the seasonally adjusted statewide rate that we announced last week (Monthly employment report)

    ESD has labor market information and tools, including a video tutorial to showcase popular information and data.

    Labor area summaries: https://esd.wa.gov/labormarketinfo/labor-area-summaries


    New Minimum Wage - $12 per hour - January 1, 2019

    Minimum wage climbs to $12 in 2019 as mandated by voter-approved initiative

    The minimum wage in Washington will increase to $12 per hour starting Jan. 1, 2019, for workers age 16 and older.

    The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) enforces the state's wage-and-hour laws, which includes the minimum wage. The state minimum wage applies to most jobs, including those in agriculture.

    Under state law, tips do not count toward a worker’s minimum wage. Also, employers can pay workers under 16 years old 85 percent of the minimum wage. For 2019, that comes out to $10.20 per hour.

    The cities of Sea-Tac, Seattle, and Tacoma have their own minimum wage rates. Check with those cities for specific information.

    When Initiative 1433 passed in the fall of 2016, it set a schedule for Washington’s minimum wage over a four-year period. As a result, in 2020 the state minimum wage will climb to $13.50. For the following year, L&I will calculate the minimum wage by using a formula tied to the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers.

    Complete information about the minimum wage is available on L&I’s website (Lni.wa.gov), including details about handling overtime, rest breaks and meals. There’s also a minimum wage announcement online that employers can print off and post.

    L&I investigates all wage-payment complaints. More information about wage and hour laws and workplace right is available on L&I's webpage. Employers and workers may also call 360-902-5316 or 1-866-219-7321.


    Click here for a Monthly Employment Report for July- August for WA. It shows the trends in a chart from 2011 indicating the decrease to date. 

    For additional summaries:

    ESD has labor market information and tools to showcase popular information and data.
    Labor area summaries: https://esd.wa.gov/labormarketinfo/labor-area-summaries


    Phase 3 of WA State Paid Family and Medical Leave rulemaking begins

    Phase 3 Rulemaking Timeline

    The third phase of rulemaking is set to begin in August following the filing of the CR101.

    This phase of rules is the first of three related to paid family and medical leave benefits. It covers:

    • Benefit applications
    • Benefit eligibility

    Please join us to share your thoughts at the listening session at 9 a.m. on Aug. 9 in Lacey

    WHEN: August 9, 2018 | 9 a.m.

    WHERE: Employment Security Department | 640 Woodland Square Loop | Lacey, Washington


    Paid Family and Medical Leave Infographic

    Shareable resources

    Help us spread the news about Paid Family & Medical Leave by sharing these resources with your networks!


    How do you make a rule?

    If you're curious about rulemaking in general, you can find information on the department's process on our rulemaking webpage.

    For information specific to the Paid Family & Medical Leave rules, including timelines for each phase of the process (there are four), visit our public comment portal.


    HR Day on the Hill
    February 1, 2018
    Attendees from Mt Baker Chapter: Robert, Edie, Shannon, and Harneet
    (the following notes written by Harneet)


    Thank you for sponsoring us to attend HR Day on the Hill, personally it was my first time attending and visiting the State Capital.

    There were a number of speakers opening with Meredith Nethercutt, a SHRM associate who resides in Washington DC, basically going over the importance of why HR professionals should be involved in legislative matters as well make encouraging a cognitive effort to have presence with their local representatives, as that we do have an influence in legislative matters.

    Randy Littlefield from Department of Labor and Industries spoke, primarily focusing on Workers Compensation and the Abuse that occurs. He provided recent examples of high profile cases that occurred recently within EX law enforcement. Randy provided important steps on how to document a claim properly.

    Kara Craig, an Attorney from the law firm Vigilant, covered the recent movement of the “Me Too” era. She shared examples of sexual harassment claims that are in the media as well from cases she is representing. Stressing the importance of this subject doesn’t matter size of organization, bottom line listen to all claims let voices be heard, and investigate if necessary. Take away - training, training and training - now is the time to educate managers and staff. We want to ensure that our organization has taken action to be preventative.

    Bob Battles who is the Director of Government Affairs from the Association of Washington Business is the one speaker that addressed current bills that are being proposed.  However there is no concreate update to report that I can share for certain that is going to take place because no new bill has been passed.

    The following bills are in legislative that we think that you may find interesting and want to be aware of:

    SHB 1298 / SB 6110 – Statewide Ban the Box currently this is only in Seattle. But we think either this bill or something similar will pass in our state soon

    SB 5996 – Banning Non-Disclosure Agreements as part of pre-employment job offers. NDAs would still be ok in cases of harassment after claim have been made. Bob Battles said this one will likely pass. Might affect some businesses that automatically do NDAs as part of onboarding

    HB 1301 / SB 5528 – Wage & Hour Anti-retaliation. Would create a 90 day protection window after any complaints or questions are made regarding pay. Employee complains about something regarding their pay… can’t fire them for any reason within 90 days or viewed as retaliation. Unsure if this will pass.

    Please visit the following website to look up a bill, it is an awesome resource! http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/  


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