Washington State Workers Get Expanded Sick Leave Use

December 3, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The Washington State Legislature has passed an update to the state's1988 Family Care Act allowing all employees to use sick leave, vacation time or personal days to care for sick family members, according to an Associated Press story.

Employers will now be forced to allow workers in the state to use paid time off to care for ailing relatives, which includes, children, spouses, grandparents, parents, parents-in-law and disabled adult children.

Proponents of the new law say workers will now have more flexibility to use paid time off than before.   Under previous interpretations of the law, employees were not always allowed to use sick time for care of an ailing relative and scheduling vacation or personal days often had to be done in advance.   

“Washington’s law is the most comprehensive,” said Lisa Bell, senior policy analyst for the National Partnership for Women and Families. “It fits the existing work-family balance. People aren’t just responsible for their 2-year-olds, they’re responsible for their 80-year-old moms or their disabled spouses.”

Opponents of the new law say employers will now unfairly be burdened with extra administrative responsibilities associated with paid time off; especially larger companies that operate in numerous states, which now find themselves with additional regulations to comply with.   Additionally, the Association of Washington Business, who opposed the bill, said some small employers might do away with paid time off altogether.   

“We traditionally oppose any expansion of those laws beyond federal regulations,” said Amber Balch, government affairs director for the Association. “It does have a chilling effect for smaller employers.”

Washington joins Wisconsin and California as the only states that have passed legislation regulating sick leave for private employers.   Forty other states allow public employees to use sick leave for relative care.