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FAQs for Employees

How is paid leave accrued?

Employees earn a minimum of one hour of paid leave for every 40 worked within the City of Tacoma, up to a total of 24 hours in a calendar year.

For what reasons can I use paid leave time under this ordinance?

You may use your paid leave time for any of the following reasons:

  • Illness or injury (either yours or a family member’s)
  • When your place of employment has been closed by order of a public official or to care for a child whose schools has been closed by order of a public official
  • To seek law enforcement or legal help for domestic violence or sexual assault (either for yourself or a family member)
  • To seek safety from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking
  • For bereavement of a close family member


If I don’t use all of my accrued paid leave time in a year, will it carry over to the next calendar year?

Yes, the ordinance allows you to carry over up to 24 hours of unused time to the following calendar year. You can then use a combined total of up to 40 hours of carried over and newly accrued time in the next calendar year.

Does the ordinance provide for the ability to cash out any unused paid leave time?

No, but employers are allowed to implement such policies if they choose.

Will the ordinance apply to workers who are members of collective bargaining units?

Yes, the ordinance applies to workers in collective bargaining units unless the requirements of the ordinance are expressly and clearly waived in the collective bargaining agreement.

Do I qualify for paid leave if I work through a staffing agency?

Yes, staffing agencies are required to comply with the ordinance.

I have a child in Tacoma Public School District. Can I use my paid leave for school closures, such as snow days or weather related late starts?

Yes, the ordinance requires that employees be able to use their leave “to be able to care for a child whose school or place of care has been closed by order of a public official.” Because the decision to close schools for weather is made by the superintendent, this a qualified reason to use paid leave. Regularly scheduled closures, such as school breaks or holidays, are not covered by the Paid Leave Ordinance.

My employer is giving me one hour of leave per pay period instead of for every 40 hours worked. What can I do?

There is information about the paid leave requirements online that you can share with your employer if you feel comfortable talking with them. You can also report a violation to be investigated.  You can also email us or call our office (253) 591-5306.

I requested paid leave for an issue related to domestic violence, but my employer didn’t pay for the shift I missed. Keeping my personal information confidential is necessary for my safety. If I file a complaint with the City, will my address become a public record?

State Law allows some exemptions to public records requests, including the following which may apply to you: “information revealing the identity of persons who are witnesses to or victims of a crime… if disclosure would endanger any person’s life, physical safety, or property. If at the time a complaint is filed the complainant, victim, or witness indicates a desire for disclosure or non-disclosure, such desire shall govern (RCW 42.56.240).” Be sure to inform us when you make your complaint if you think this exception might apply. Your complaint may not be completely confidential, as we may need to tell your employer who filed the charge in order to properly investigate and names must be released in order for employees to receive owed hours or wages.

I got sick while I was on vacation. Can I use my paid leave instead of my vacation time?

No, paid leave can only be used for scheduled shifts unless your employer has a more generous policy.

I don’t have health insurance. Do I need to get a doctor’s note if I stay home sick but don’t need medical treatment?

The ordinance doesn’t require documentation for using paid leave, but your employer's policy might require written documentation. If they do, they cannot specifically require a doctor's note. Employer policies must allow a note written by you that explains why your absence on a particular date and time qualifies for paid leave as a form of documentation. Your note does not need to describe the specific nature of your illness.

As a restaurant worker, can I choose to trade shifts when I'm sick so I don't miss out on tips?

Yes, if you and your employer both agree to it. The ordinance allows employers to establish policies offering employees substitute shifts so they don’t have to miss out on compensation received from tips; however, the employer may still deduct the amount of time of the missed or substitute shift (whichever is less) from the employee’s accrued paid leave.

As a non-restaurant worker, can I choose to trade shifts when I’m sick so I don’t miss out on pay?

Yes, if both you and your employer agree to it. The ordinance allows employers to establish policies offering employees the option of voluntarily trading shifts so they don’t have to use their paid leave time.

I work around 50 hours each week. How many of these hours count toward accruing paid leave?

If you are an employee who qualifies for overtime pay, then all of your hours count toward accruing paid leave. Salaried employees (employees who are exempt from overtime pay under FLSA) who work full-time accrue leave based on a 40-hour work week. If you are an FLSA exempt employee who works less than 40 hours per week, then you accrue leave based on the average number of hours that you typically work. For example, a part-time exempt employee who works roughly twenty hours per week would earn one hour of paid leave during a two-week pay period.

I am sick and can’t work my shift, but I don’t want to use my paid leave. Can I take unpaid time off?

The Paid Leave Ordinance provides you with a right to paid time off for health and safety needs; it does not require your employer to provide unpaid time off for illness. You can ask your employer what their policy is on unpaid time off.

When can I start to use my paid leave?

Effective on February 1, 2016, employees who work 80 hours or more each year within Tacoma City Limits will begin to accrue paid leave time immediately.  You can begin to use your accrued hours 180 days after your start date.  Employees who have been with their employer for at least 180 days on Feb. 1, 2016 may use their leave as they accrue it, unless the employer has a minimum use policy that would require an employee to accrue a certain minimum amount before using the leave. 

I understand that employees are able to carry over up to 24 hours of accrued but unused paid leave time to the next year. If an employee earns 24 hours of paid leave in the new year, their total balance of hours could be 48 hours… but doesn’t the law limit use of leave to 40 hours?

Yes, the law provides for:

  1. The ability for employees to carry over of up to 24 hours of accrued but unused time;
  2. The ability for employees to earn 24 new hours in each calendar year;
  3. The right of employers to limit use of paid leave to 40 hours in a benefit year.

This means that an employee could run into a scenario where they have 48 hours accrued, but their use is limited to just 40 hours. In this scenario, the employee would be able to carry over the additional 8 hours and start the next benefit year with some time available to them for health, safety, and some kinds of family care. Below is a table that illustrates how this could play out year-to-year:


   Beginning Balance Hours Earned Hours Used End of Year Balance Carried Over to Next Year


    0     24     0    24    24
2017     24     24     0    48    24
2018     24     24    40     8     8
2019     8     24    10    22    22


Example above based on minimum accrual, use, and carry over limits set by the Ordinance. More generous policies are permitted.  


Still have questions?

More information can be found within the Paid Leave Ordinance and the Paid Leave Rules. You can also email us or call (253) 591-5306.