The “Occasional Basis Worker” Under Seattle’s Paid Sick and Safe Time Benefit Ordinance – Obligations for Companies Based Outside of Seattle

Seattle’s paid sick and safe time benefit (PSST) went into effect on September 1, 2012. It may seem like eons ago considering all that you are working on but it may be something that has slipped off your radar due to your full plate. Or maybe your company is growing and is sending workers into the city for the first time since the ordinance took effect. This is the important element to consider: Even if your headquarters are outside of Seattle but have employees that travel to Seattle for client work you are still mandated to adhere to the Seattle PSST ordinance. The Seattle Office of Civil Rights requires that “Occasional Basis Workers” must accrue PSST after working 240 paid hours within the city limits. The amount of accrual varies and we can help you design a policy that works for your organization – more details and resources below.

Quick tips and several resources to help manage this process:

  • An “Occasional Basis Worker” is defined as one who works primarily outside the City of Seattle, but who works inside the city limits on an ad hoc, irregular basis.
  • Companies must track hours worked in Seattle for all workers. (See the exception for qualifying PTO programs, below.)
  • Accrual time starts the minute your employee arrives in the Seattle City limits from the time they leave, except when the employee is just driving through. This means that even if there is a traffic jam on the way to the meeting downtown, they must accrue PSST hours.
  • Accrual of PSST hours begins on the 241st hour of work within the Seattle City Limits. Employees must be allowed to use accrued PSST hours no later than 180 days from the day they begin accruing.
  • There are different accrual rates based on whether you are tier one, two or three company. This is a great place to learn more information:
  • If your company offers Paid Time Off (PTO) program that allows employees to use the benefit hours for issues that would qualify for PSST, and the accrual rate meets the minimum requirements under the PSST, tracking hours worked within the city limits is not required. However, all other requirements of the PSST (such as qualifying events and minimum usage requirements) must be met within your existing policy.
  • Commission-only and piece rate workers must also track their hours worked within the city, and must be compensated at least at minimum wage for PSST hours used.

For even more information check out:

Do you have questions regarding this ordinance? – how to write a compliant policy, how to track it, how to apply it – let us know! We also look forward to hearing your tips on how you are tracking hours and remaining compliant. Let us know in the comments below.

What Does the New City of Seattle Background Check Ordinance Mean to Employers?

Starting November 1, 2013, a newly mandated City of Seattle ‘second chance’ ordinance requires that employers change the way in which they ask about and use the criminal conviction history of its job applicants and employees. The goal of the new ordinance is to give those convicted, arrested, or charged with a crime a chance to gain employment in an effort to change their course and give back to the community.

Here is what you need to know:

  • The ordinance applies to any employee who works at least 50% of the time in the City of Seattle. Employers may no longer include a criminal history question on their employment applications.
  • To ensure compliance we suggest that employers closely review and make appropriate changes to job application questions, interview processes, as well as job descriptions and postings.
  • We also strongly recommend that employers implement a documentation process that outlines the specific circumstances when applicants with criminal histories are not hired.
  • Employers can still perform a criminal background check or require a potential candidate to provide criminal history information, but only after the screening and resume review process of all applicants has been completed and the employer has identified which applicants have the required skills to carry out the job’s responsibilities. In other words, an employer must first identify which candidates are qualified for the position before conducting a background check. A good way to manage this process is to only conduct background checks when extending an offer and to make the offer contingent upon completion of a successful background check.
  • Employers can inquire about conduct related to an arrest record but cannot deny employment based on the related arrest or criminal conviction record unless the employer can document a legitimate business related reason for the decision. For example, if during the course of employment an employee will have unsupervised access to children under 16 years old, developmentally disabled persons, or vulnerable adults then there may be a legitimate reason to deny employment based on the criminal conviction.
  • If a third party vendor conducts your background checks or if you outsource your hiring needs it is still the employers responsibility to ensure compliance with all of the requirements of this new ordinance.

What Washington State Marijuana Legalization Means for Washington Employers

When the topic of marijuana is brought up at the workplace, there is “gray area” pertaining to what is the right stance to take as a company and how to enforce company policy. Currently, the line is blurred due to the difference in Washington state law that provides legal permission to possess certain amounts of marijuana in different carrying forms (plant, baked goods, etc.) versus federal law that considers any marijuana possession illegal. How do these differences affect employers and the actions of employees in and around the workplace?

Keeping in mind that the Washington law is a voter-approved bill, it is good to remember that there are many different perspectives employers should consider when evaluating policy next steps. Below, I explore some thoughts that were shared by business leaders at an open forum that I recently attended:

  • See this time as a great opportunity to update your employee handbook but keep in mind that there is no one-step, fix-all policy. Take the time to listen to your employees and increase engagement in the workplace.
  • If your current drug policy is “We have a drug-free workplace,” think about what this actually means for your specific company and invest in creating the type of workplace that is safe and productive for all of your employees.
  • If your company is accepting any government grants or on any federally funded projects, you may need to reinforce that your company is in line with all federal laws.
  • Consider how you define “impairment” and what your job performance expectations are. These are key in developing a solid and accountable drug policy and in turn, a solid and accountable workforce.

With this discrepancy between federal law and state law, everyone is concerned about how the federal government is going to react to marijuana being legal for recreational use in certain states. So far, the federal government is not taking any action against this bill passing. As an HR professional, I believe employers should consider what is the best policy to have in a professional environment and how to practice that policy. Employers and employees all need to work together to determine how the company is going to move forward through marijuana legalization in the state of Washington.

What actions have you or are you considering at your company?

Seattle’s Sick & Safe Leave Ordinance Went into Effect September 1st

The Seattle Sick & Safe Leave ordinance went into effect September 1, 2012. The ordinance requires businesses with employees working in the City of Seattle to provide a certain level of paid time off that can be used for sick and safe leave purposes. The ordinance applies to companies with five or more employees and has very clear guidelines for employers to follow. All companies with employees working within the City of Seattle are impacted regardless of where the company is physically located. This can include companies with telecommuting employees who live in the City of Seattle as well as companies with employees who perform any work within the city for 240 hours per year or more. Employers who offer PTO rather than separate sick leave and vacation time will also need to pay special attention to the requirements of the ordinance for companies who offer PTO. In some cases it may make more business sense to switch to a system of offering sick and vacation leave.

If you are not already prepared we recommend doing the following right now:

  1. Research the ordinance. Although it is long and can be confusing, it is a good idea to become familiar with the details. Make sure you understand the requirements and how they impact your company based on the tier you fit into. You can do this by reading the ordinance, attending an information session or consulting an attorney or other individual who is familiar with both the ordinance and your company.
  2. Compare the requirements of the ordinance to your company’s current policies regarding sick and safe leave. This will include rate of accrual as well as reasons to use and documentation requirements. Additionally, it is probably a good idea to define the terms such as “preventive care” and “family member” for your employees.
  3. Make the changes to your policies needed to ensure that you remain compliant with the new regulations.
  4. Communicate the new information in the ordinance as well as any changes to your current policies to your staff in advance. Allow them the opportunity to ask questions. The ordinance requires that you notify your employees of their rights. We believe you will be better served by crafting your own message than by allowing the city to dictate how you communicate the information.
  5. Ensure your tracking and reporting systems are sufficient so that you can meet the requirements of the ordinance to track and retain records and provide regular updates to your employees.
    Need more information?

Our recent NW HR Best Practices Roundtable offered members the opportunity to discuss the new requirements. It was a lively discussion with Katheryn Bradley who made herself available to answer questions about the ordinance. The materials from the meeting and Jennifer Olsen’s recent interview with Katheryn are available on the Resourceful HR website.

Keeping Compliant

Is your business compliant with the different state and federal laws that govern it?

When Resourceful HR is hired to provide HR support we often recommend starting with an HR audit to ensure your programs and processes are legally compliant and gaining you the greatest return. The following is a sample of the record keeping items we look for to help you get started:

  1. What information is contained in your employee files? Is there one file for each employee that contains all of their information or have you separated the various areas of employment? If you have everything in one file you may be out of compliance. HIPAA rules require you to keep benefit/medical information in a separate file from other general hiring information.
  2. How are the I-9s stored? We often find errors in I-9 completion and storage. We recommend that I-9s be kept in a separate binder and stored in a locked file cabinet.
  3. Are your mandatory legal posters up to date and posted where all employees can see them?
  4. Are reporting lines clear, documented, and well communicated to employees?
  5. Is there an employee handbook in place and well utilized? Do employees know where to get information if an employee handbook doesn’t exist? Do you have guidelines in place for the various questions that arise? For example, do you allow employees to use your equipment for personal use or do you restrict use to solely business related items? An employee handbook, if crafted correctly, may help protect the company in the event that an employee files a lawsuit. More information is available on our blog:
    When is the best time to introduce an employee handbook?
    What should you include in an employee handbook?
  6. Record keeping and retention. Do you know how long you are required to keep different kinds of documents? There are many record keeping laws that vary by state. Are you aware of the laws you need to comply with?

In addition to looking at your written documentation, we highly stress the importance of having your documentation process organized and “fool proof” to ensure that the information is in order and kept up to date. We encourage our clients to use checklists for hiring and termination as well as on-boarding new employees to make sure none of the steps fall through the cracks.

Check out more tips on ensuring your practices are compliant adhering to the Department of Labor requirements.

Hitting the Magic 50 Employee Mark – What do You Need to Think About? – Part 1

Just as age marks milestones for people, so does the number of employees in the business world. For instance, turning 21 is a magic milestone for many. It is a time of change – change in how a person conducts themselves, change in how they set their goals and go about their daily lives. In business, a magic milestone is reaching fifty employees. This often also marks a time of change – change in the laws that govern the employer, change in employee expectations of the employer and certainly change in how the employer conducts their daily business and goals.

Just as age marks milestones for people, so does the number of employees in the business world. For instance, turning 21 is a magic milestone for many. It is a time of change – change in how a person conducts themselves, change in how they set their goals and go about their daily lives. In business, a magic milestone is reaching fifty employees. This often also marks a time of change – change in the laws that govern the employer, change in employee expectations of the employer and certainly change in how the employer conducts their daily business and goals.

Over the next several weeks, we will be sharing a three-part series detailing what to take into account as you reach or if you have already reached the 50-employee milestone. First of all congratulations on your accomplishment! Secondly, we hope to hear from you and what you are working on to accommodate your growth. Do you have questions, best practices, additional information to share?


At the 50-employee mark, employers are responsible to comply with some additional employment laws, most notably, the Family Medical Leave Act.

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The FMLA applies to any employer in the private sector who engages in commerce, or in any industry or activity affecting commerce, and who has 50 or more employees each working day during at least 20 calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. The law also covers all public agencies (state and local governments) and local education agencies (schools, whether public or private). These employers do not need to meet the “50 employee” test in order to comply.

The FMLA requires the employer to provide up to 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave a year, and requires group health benefits to be maintained during the leave as if employees continued to work instead of taking leave, to an employee with a pregnancy or a serious health condition. Employees of both sexes are also entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a newborn child, or a child recently placed with them for adoption or foster care. They are also entitled to 12 weeks of leave to care for a son or daughter (under 18), spouse or parent with a serious health condition. However, FMLA is limited to 12 weeks total for all reasons in any 12-month period. As an employer, you have the responsibility to inform an employee in writing of his or her rights under FMLA, within 5 days of any absence that could be covered by FMLA. Read more about FMLA here:

Affirmative Action

Under Executive Order 11246, employers who have 50+ employees and $50,000 in government contracts must have an Affirmative Action Plan (AAP) and take affirmative action to recruit and advance qualified minorities, women, persons with disabilities, and covered veterans. Affirmative actions include training programs, outreach efforts, and other positive steps. These procedures should be incorporated into the company’s written personnel policies. Employers with written affirmative action programs must implement them, keep them on file and update them annually. To find out more about Affirmative Action Plans, reference:

State of California

CA Govt. Code Sec. 12950.1, requires California employers to provide supervisory employees with 2 hours of interactive sexual harassment training and education every 2 years. The requirement covers employers with 50 or more employees or contractors in any 20 consecutive weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. There is no requirement that the 50 employees or contractors work at the same location or that all work or reside in California. For more information:

Seattle Sick & Safe Leave Ordinance – a Q&A with Katheryn Bradley

Seattle’s new sick and safe leave ordinance will go into effect on September 1, 2012. To prepare for the changes, I sat down with Katheryn Bradley, an Employment Attorney at Lane Powell, to learn more about the details of the ordinance. This new ordinance requires employers who meet certain criteria to provide paid sick and safe leave time to employees who work in Seattle.

Katheryn covers the following:

1. Calculating the number of full time employees you have,
2. More about the “Safe Leave” portion of the ordinance,
3. How the ordinance effects businesses that not physically located in Seattle but have employees working in Seattle,
4. Differences between this ordinance and State and Federal laws, and
5. Advice on what to do to prepare your company

For more information about the ordinance you may wish to read Katheryn’s recent article on the Lane Powell website or attend next week’s NW HR Best Practices Roundtable meeting at which we will talk about this ordinance with Katheryn available to answer questions.

Background Check Policies – What you should know

Do you require prospective employees to undergo a background investigation? Do you have concerns regarding a candidate’s right to privacy? These are serious considerations to take into account while establishing a company’s policy on pre-employment background investigations.

Recent wisdom suggests that it is better to create guidelines around how your organization will handle adverse information rather than developing a cut and dry policy to determine pass and fail criteria. This approach permits you to handle each investigation on a case-by-case basis and allows for flexibility in cases of extenuating circumstances. For instance, a criminal record does not automatically preclude employment. If a criminal record is found, an HR representative has the obligation to speak with the candidate to determine accuracy and whether or not the situation warrants further consideration, given the circumstances.
>> CONTINUE READING >> Must knows when creating guidlines

How Can You Keep the Department of Labor & Industries From Knocking At Your Door?

Employers are facing increased scrutiny over their pay practices from both the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). In 2010, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis stepped up enforcement of federal wage and hour laws by hiring 250 additional investigators to snare employers who are violating wage laws. Likewise, L&I began using blogs—including Nailed, its fraud prevention and compliance blog,—Facebook, and Twitter to gather information needed to catch scofflaws.

The DOL surveyed more than 4,000 workers in three cities and concluded that “employment and labor laws are regularly and systematically violated,” with 1.1 million workers having at least one pay-based violation per week. Claiming violations in virtually every major urban industry, the report found:

  • 76% of the workers who had worked overtime were paid incorrectly.
  • 26% were not paid minimum wage.
  • 69% percent of workers had meal break violations.
  • 20% of the workers reported complaints, with 43% reporting retaliation.

The study concluded that front-line workers lose more than $56.4 million per week in underpaid wages. Among the areas of its enforcement focus, DOL continues its efforts on so-called “low wage” industries, independent contractors, misclassifications, and unpaid off-the-clock work.

Consequences to Employers for Failing to Comply
In my experience, most employers try hard to comply with the law and avoid costly litigation. The laws can be complicated though, and employers occasionally get tripped up without realizing it. Employers should remember that the DOL, L&I, and employees see a big target on their collective backs. The DOL can show up at your business with no warning, ask to see your records and interview employees on a moment’s notice. The risk of not paying employees correctly can be severe, including:

  • Investigations
  • Enforcement actions
  • Private lawsuits
  • Collective actions or
  • Class actions by:
    • Current Employees
    • Former Employees
  • Payment of back wages
  • Liquidated damages (double wages)
  • Back payment of workers’ comp premiums
  • Fines
  • Criminal penalties
  • Attorneys’ fees & costs

>> Continue Reading for What Should You Do? >>

Medical Marijuana in the Workplace – Make sure your drug policy protects you from a lawsuit

Recently the Washington State’s Supreme Court ruled that employers can discharge an employee who uses medical marijuana, even if the employee only uses the drug at home and does not experience side effects that impact his/her job function. This new ruling means that the state’s medical marijuana law (MUMA – Medical Use of Marijuana Act), which protects a patient who has a prescription for marijuana from being prosecuted, may not protect the individual in an employment dispute.

>> Continue Reading to learn what this means to employers >>

When Is the Best Time to Introduce an Employee Handbook?

There are many factors that enter into the decision of when the time is right for a company to produce and distribute an employee handbook. Some of these factors include:

1) Company Culture – Are you proactive? Are you a risk taker?
Many companies in the start-up or earlier phases of maturity think that employee handbooks are only for “big, bureaucratic companies”. This is a fallacy. A small company that introduces a handbook before a growth spurt will mitigate risks and save time. It is best to document and communicate expectations and policy parameters; such as how paid time off is handled, before it becomes an issue or concern.

READ MORE about employment laws and how employee handbooks will help you avoid common pitfalls

Health Care Reform Act: Nursing Mother Accommodations


President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, H.R. 3590 (PPACA), on March 23, 2010 and the Reconciliation Act of 2010, H.R. 4872, on March 30, 2010. One of the many outcomes of this new act is that it amended Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act to require that employers accommodate nursing mothers with a private area (not the company restroom) to express breast milk for the first year of their child’s life.


Employment Law: Are Employer’s Responsible for Insuring Adult Children in Washington State?

Young adults, ages 19 to 29, are one of the largest growing age groups and account for approximately one-third of Americans who do not have health insurance. This makes sense when one considers that young adulthood is a period of transition- going from high school to college to the working world or from high school to the working world. Many times individuals in this age group will start out in entry-level low paying and/or temporary jobs where benefits are not offered. Other times they are naïve and do not understand the importance of insurance yet because they have less illnesses than older individuals. Lastly, at this stage in their life, an individual policy is often cost prohibitive.

Consequently, many states are reviewing extending dependent benefit coverage to young adults who are not enrolled in college full time. Utah was the first state to require benefit plans to continue after the dependent was out of school and/or college, up to age 26. In New Jersey you can continue to cover your dependents up to age 31 as long as they are unmarried and do not have children of their own.

Washington State, along with over half of the other states, has enacted similar legislation. If you are still under the impression that employees can only cover their dependents after age 19 as long as they are enrolled in college, be sure you are up to date with Washington state law:

RCW 48.44.215

Option to cover dependents under age twenty-five.

(1) Any individual health care service plan contract that provides coverage for a subscriber’s dependent must offer the option of covering any unmarried dependent under the age of twenty-five.

(2) Any group health care service plan contract that provides coverage for a participating member’s dependent must offer each participating member the option of covering any unmarried dependent under the age of twenty-five.

As with other facets of US health care, changes to company provided health care coverage will continue. It is important that as employers, we keep up with these changes.

Washington State Referendum 71 (R71): What Employers Need to Know

Referendum 71 (R71) was a 2009 ballot referendum that asked Washington state voters to re-confirm the expansion of domestic partnership rights and obligations in Washington’s originally limited domestic partnership legislation. The new law allows registered domestic partners to be treated the same as married couples for all purpose under state law. While most of the amendments will not have a direct impact from an employer perspective, one area that will be immediately affected is several Washington State leave entitlements.

>> How will R71 affect Washington State Leave Entitlements? >>

“Got Eight? Time to Arbitrate”

When a Washington–based company employs eight or more employees, the employer is subject to the requirements of the Washington Law Against Discrimination (“WLAD”) which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, and disability status. While offering protection to workers, the law also brings the potential for high risk lawsuits and frequent extortion by Plaintiff’s counsel to employers. However there is a defense to mitigate such risk – the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”).

>> I’m an employer, what advantages does the Federal Arbitration Act offer me? >>