On Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a shelter in place order, but what does that mean? Simply, it means do your part to STAY AT HOME as much as possible during this outbreak of the coronavirus in our state and throughout the world. This does not mean that you cannot leave your house to walk, run, bike, or otherwise exercise outside. However, if you do that, you must stay AT LEAST SIX FEET away from any other people outside.
You can also leave your house for essential activities: grocery shopping, trips to the pharmacy, gas stations, take out only food (but delivery is also an option), and seeing a doctor or medical professional.
Public and private gatherings (parties, concerts, churches) are strictly prohibited. This includes in your own home or backyard.
If you are working in a non-essential job, and you can work at home, do it. In fact, you have to stay home and work at home if you can. If you've been laid off, see our previous blog post on financial resources for those out of work during the crisis: https://www.giantlegal.net/blog/coronavirus-financial-relief-washington-state.
But, what is an essential job? Each category contains examples only (the categories have many jobs listed):
So what if I'm a business owner, and I don't fit an essential category? This is tricky. If you can work at home, do it. If you can go to a delivery model, do that. I've seen small retailers use social media and the internet to sell clothing, art, and jewelry online. That is all allowed. If you are doing that, customers should not meet you to pick up items - they must be delivered, and you must limit the number of employees in your business or warehouse to handle online and phone traffic, as well as mailing to only those that are essential.
Gyms and fitness professionals can offer free or paid training through YouTube or Zoom or members' only portions of websites. Artists and writers can use Patreon or subscription based options, and writers especially can freelance.
If you are working at home, you may want to forward your business mail to your residence. You are still currently allowed to pick up mail at your business while following social distancing rules.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, IF YOU ARE SICK, FEEL SICK, OR HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO THE CORONAVIRUS, STAY HOME.
For more information contact us or see the Washington State coronavirus resource website: https://coronavirus.wa.gov/whats-open-and-closed.
Due to the extreme measures being put into place to contain the COVID-19/Novel Coronavirus, Courts are not operating as they normally are. If you are an active client, we will update you directly. We'll try to keep updating this list as things change.
Note that just because hearings are delayed or courts are closed, other litigation and case deadlines have not changed at this point. Discovery (written questions and document production, depositions) and related deadlines remind. Statutes of limitation to file a case have not changed. You can still open new cases and file motions.
Idaho Federal Courts (Federal District & Bankruptcy): These courts are almost exclusively electronic (or eFile). Hearings will be telephonic or moved. The Courts have posted limitations to who can enter the physical buildings. If you are sick or have been exposed to someone who is and/or if you have been traveling abroad, you cannot enter the physical courthouses.
Washington Federal Courts (Federal District & Bankruptcy): Like Idaho, these courts are primarily electronic (or eFile). Most hearings are already telephonic, so that will not change. Bankruptcy meetings of creditors may be postponed. If you are sick, do not physically enter the courthouse. No travel restrictions have been posted.
Idaho State Courts: All civil & family law hearings may be held telephonically or postponed based on the Judge's sole discretion. You will be notified by the Court. Hearings for domestic violence, child custody, and other emergencies shall be held telephonically, if possible. Eviction hearings are postponed. Lawyers must eFile and pro se (parties without lawyers) litigants can register to eFile or use special dropboxes. You cannot enter the Court if you are sick or have recently traveled to certain places. These changes are in place until at least April 10, 2020. More info can be found here: https://isc.idaho.gov/files/COVID-19-Order.pdf.
Washington State Courts: Changes vary greatly across the 39 Counties. All counties have asked people who are sick to stay home or reschedule your hearing date. For Spokane County Superior Court specifically, the following changes are in place:
Other Washington County info can be found here: http://www.courts.wa.gov/index.cfm?fa=home.courtClosures
Appellate courts (Washington & Idaho): Divisions 1-3, Supreme Courts, and the 9th Circuit have not changed any deadlines. Oral arguments on motions may be moved or delayed.
We are here to answer your questions and will update this as things change.
It's a scary time, but we are here to help. This post contains resources for Washington State residents needing financial relief with closures of schools and businesses. We will continue to update this post as we receive new information. Below are some options:
1. Washington State Paid Sick Leave. This has been mandatory for employers since January 2018. As an employee, you earn one hour of paid leave for each 40 hour period you work. This kicks in after your 90th day of employment. Your employer cannot penalize you or threaten your job if you take or use paid leave. We have blogged about this before, so here's what you need to know specifically about sick leave and Coronavirus.
If your place of business has been closed by a government official you can use Washington State Paid Sick Leave. So, if Gov. Inslee, for example, closed your employer's business, you can use paid sick leave if you are not being paid during this time.
If your child's school or day care has been closed for Coronavirus, you can use paid sick leave to stay home and provide care to your child.
An employer cannot require you to work from home if you've requested to use your paid sick leave. But, if you choose to work from home, you cannot use paid leave.
An employer that voluntarily chooses to close its business does not have to, but can offer, paid leave.
An employer cannot force you to use paid sick leave if you do not want to do so, but an employer can send you home if you exhibit symptoms of Coronavirus
If you have Coronavirus or any other illness, you can use paid sick leave.
Your employer may offer broader paid time off or sick leave beyond the Washington state program. Check with your employer for more details. Paid sick leave is run by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I). More info is here: https://lni.wa.gov/workers-rights/leave/paid-sick-leave/index.
2. Paid Family & Medical Leave. This is a companion to the L&I program that is run by the Employment Security Department. You may know this agency as unemployment. This leave is available for Washington employees who have worked 820 hours during the past year in Washington. Self-employed people can opt-in to the program. but do not receive it automatically. Generally you can receive 12 paid weeks, but may be eligible for up to 18 weeks paid.
You can use it if you or a family member have a serious illness. You must apply: https://paidleave.wa.gov/.
3. Unemployment. This is always offered through ESD/Unemployment Office. You must have worked at least 680 hours (during the last 12-18 months) with part of those hours in Washington to receive unemployment in Washington State. If you have been laid off by your employer during this Coronavirus outbreak, you are likely eligible for paid, weekly benefits. You have to be an employee (not an independent contractor or self-employed person), but you can happily here: https://secure.esd.wa.gov/home/. Note that unemployment is not for people who are sick - it is for people who are mentally and physically able to work but currently cannot and cannot find a job at this time.
4. Other Paid Leave Programs. Your employer may offer options and some counties like King offer additional paid leave programs. Info for King County is here: https://www.kingcounty.gov/audience/employees/pay-benefits/WA-paid-family-medical-leave.aspx.
Remember, these options apply to employees only. How do you know if you are an employee? One quick way is to look at your paycheck. Do you have taxes deducted and does your employer give you a W-2 each year? You're an employee. If you are self-employed, you may have opted in to the Paid Family & Medical Leave program. Some options for you:
5. Food Stamps or Basic Food. Food stamps are called Basic Food in Washington State. Benefits are based on family size and family income. You need to apply. More information here: https://www.dshs.wa.gov/esa/community-services-offices/basic-food.
6. Welfare or TANF. Washington state operates a program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). TANF provides temporary, supplemental income for families in need. You have to apply, and you must be eligible. Eligibilty includes having family resources of less than $6,000. The amount you receive depends on the size of your family, the income you earn, and any other benefits you are already receiving (like unemployment). Apply here: https://www.dshs.wa.gov/esa/community-services-offices/tanf-and-support-services.
Our firm is pleased to announced that our founding principal has again been honored with a Pro Bono Publico Service Commendation from the Washington State Bar Association for 2018. Our firm completed hundreds of hours of pro bono services for clients who simply cannot afford attorneys in civil matters like family law, landlord tenant disputes, and consumer questions.
If you are in need of free legal aid and you meet the income requirements in Washington State (within 200% of federal poverty guidelines or $51,500 for a family of four using 2019 numbers). If you fit this and need a lawyer for a civil matter in Washington, you must contact the CLEAR hotline 1-888-201-1014 for intake or complete the intake online at www.nwjustice.org.
If you don't know if you qualify or have questions about where to go in Washington (or Idaho), we are always happy to answer your questions about who to contact.
Washington Supreme Court rules that obesity can be considered a disability in an employment law setting
Today, the Washington Supreme Court issued its ruling in Taylor v. Burlington N. R.R. Holdings, Inc., in which the Court answered a distinct question about whether or not obesity is a disability for purposes of the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD). As we've talked about before, the WLAD protects employees from discrimination in hiring, firing, retention, and promotion by Washington employers. WLAD applies to a number of protected classes (age, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.), but also to disabilities.
The Washington Supreme Court was asked if the WLAD protected obese employees in hiring decisions when a person's condition of obesity would not impact the requirements of job. Specifically, the court considered if it was okay for an employer to choose not to hire an obese potential employee who was applying for a job that would not be impacted by his weight.
In a 7-2 decision, the Washington Supreme Court held that obesity is a disability under the WLAD because it is an "impairment" that is recognized by the medical community as a physiological disorder or condition. The court went on to make clear that if an employer refused to hire an employee who the employer believes is obese, and that applicant is otherwise qualified and able to do the job, the employer is in violation of the WLAD and has unlawfully discriminated against that potential employee.
To be clear, this ruling is only limited to the State of Washington. It does not change the fact that certain disabilities, including obesity, may keep an employee from doing a job such that an employer need not hire that employee or provide an accommodation. For example, an employee who is or becomes blind is not entitled to work at a job that requires her to drive. It would not be unlawful discrimination under the WLAD for the employer to not hire that blind employee as a driver. But, this ruling is significant in that a person's actual or perceived obesity cannot be a determinative factor in an employer's hiring decisions.
Have questions about this or other employment rights in Washington or Idaho? We're happy to discuss them with you.
It's the time of year again in Washington State. The state legislature passed a number of bills that Gov. Jay Inslee has signed into law that went into effect on July 1, 2019. Here's what you need to know about some of the new laws:
1. TRAFFIC: For those of you in Western Washington, HOV or carpool lane violations have higher fines. For the simple offender, the ticket goes up an extra $50 for a first-time violation. For those of you who try to be sneaky using stuffed animals, mannequins, and other faux-passengers, the violation is $200 more.
2. Health: The personal or philosophical exception to vaccinating children against measles, mumps, or rubella (the MMR vaccine) is no more. That means that parents must vaccinate their children before sending them to school or licensed day cares. The religious exemption still exists.
3. Employment. A big win for back-to-work moms - employers now have to either provide a private place that is not a bathroom stall or work with the employee to allow her to breast feed and/or pump breast milk in a private setting.
4. Voting. All ballots in Washington will include prepaid postage for all elections to reduce barriers to voting.
5. Residential Tenants: Renters made two big wins. First, a tenant must give 14-days notice for an eviction due to non-payment of rent. This is 11 days more than under prior laws. Second, a landlord must provide sixty (60) days written notice to increase rent. Per usual, a landlord cannot increase rent while a lease is still valid. That means if you signed a year-long residential lease, you get the stated amount of rent during that year - no changes can occur to the amount of monthly rent.
This is just a portion of the new Washington laws. Remember, your city or county may have additional new laws, especially if you're in King County. As always, for our Idaho clients, we're happy to give you a rundown of your rights' in Idaho, as they often vary greatly from those in Washington. We're here to help.
Washington State's Paid Family and Medical Leave program starts January 1, 2019 with premium collection. Benefits cannot be used until January 1, 2020. Here are some quick facts you need to know:
;Are you an employer or employee in the State of Washington? Effective January 1, 2018, as a result of Initiative 1433, Washington employers will be required to pay most employees sick leave. The new laws, which will be enforced by the Washington Department of Labor & Industries, are the result of the initiative process--meaning Washington state residents (not lawmakers) voted to enact the laws. Here's what you need to know:
1. Most employees will earn/accrue sick leave at a rate of one-hour of paid leave per 40 hours worked.
2. The law covers part-time and seasonal workers.
3. Employees are entitled to be paid sick leave at their normal hourly compensation rate(s).
4. Employees can use sick leave on the 90th calendar day after the start of their employment.
5. 40 hours or less of unused leave must rollover to the next year.
6. Employees can use the leave to: care for themselves or family members; if their child's school or their workplace is closed for any health-related reason; and for absences that qualify under the Domestic Violence Leave Act.
Employers can make broader policies, and employers with existing paid time off or flex time policies may already fit the requirements of the new law. If you need to update your policies or handbook as a Washington employer, please contact an employment attorney familiar with the new laws.
On Sunday, July 23, Washington's new distracted driving law goes into effect. What do you need to know?
1. You are forbidden virtually all use of phones, tablets laptops, and gaming devices while driving. This includes at a stop sign or stopped.
2. You can still have a phone in a dashboard cradle for navigation, but no watching last night's "Daily Show" or any other video.
3. Hands free systems in your car are still fine.
4. The initial fine is $136. The second citation is $235.
5. Distracted driving tickets will get reported to your insurance company.
6. Grooming (makeup, hairbrushing, beard brushing) and eating are "secondary offenses," so if you are pulled over for another reason, you can be cited an extra $30 for that kind of distraction.
Keep you hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road, and text when parked. Brush your teeth before you leave the house and eat your fries when you get home.
We are pleased to have been rated by Super Lawyers in the area of Business Litigation in 2017. This is the second year in a row our Principal has been named to the Super Lawyers list, and she is a previous three-time Rising Star (honoring attorneys 40 and under).
Super Lawyers uses a patented selection process that starts with nominations of attorneys from their own peers, followed by third-party research across 12 categories, a peer review from a Blue Ribbon Panel of attorneys, and a final selection for inclusion. The Super Lawyers list selects only 5% of those nominated to appear on the annual list. More info is here: superlawyers.com/selectionprocess.
All blog posts are written by members of the GIANTlegal team, unless otherwise indicated. Information contained in our blog does not constitute legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.