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.
Today, July 5, 2017, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee signed into law Senate Bill 5975, a bipartisan bill providing paid family and medical leave for Washington employees. Although the law does not go into effect until 2020, here are the key details:
1. Eligible workers can take extended paid leave for a new child, a severely ill family member, or the worker's own serious health condition.
2. Both employers and employees pay into the system, but the burden to both is expected to be low. According to the Washington State Senate, an employee making $50,000 per year would pay $2.42 per week and the employer would pay $1.42 -- less than a trip to Starbucks.
3. The weekly amount paid out is capped at $1,000. Workers earning less than $1,000 per week would receive a payment of 90% of their income while on leave.
4. Two (2) additional weeks are available for health conditions related to a pregnancy.
5. Self-employed workers will only be required to pay the employee share to receive the benefits.
6. Employers with fifty (50) or fewer employees are exempt from the employer share of premiums as well.
7. Premiums will begin to be collected on January 1, 2019 from employers and employees.
8. Total annual leave is between 12 and 16 weeks maximum, depending upon the circumstances.
Washington is the 5th state to have a paid family leave program, joining California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York. If you already have paid leave options or if you want to learn more as an employer or employee, contact an employment attorney. Note that this paid leave program is a supplement to state and federal FMLA laws.
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.