• City of Tacoma QA
  • City of Tacoma OpenData

FAQs for Employers

Does the law affect my company if I already offer employees at least 52 hours or more paid time off?

No, provided that it meets all the requirements of TMC 18.10, including:

  • Employees accrue at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked
  • Use is allowed for the reasons stated in TMC 18.10
  • Employees can carry over at least 40 hours of accrued but unused leave to the next calendar year
  • The employer meets the noticing and record keeping requirements 
  • If the employee works more than 2080 hours in a benefit year, more paid sick leave is accrued 


How will the law be enforced?

Enforcement of the law is the responsibility of the director of Finance. Educational opportunities and support are available to businesses to ensure they have the information they need to be compliant with the new law. Click here to request training or call us at (253) 591-5306. Employers will be required to certify compliance with the law when they apply for and renew their business license every year. Other than the annual certification, enforcement of the law will generally be complaint based.

Will the law apply to collective bargaining units?

Yes, paid sick leave requirements apply to workers in collective bargaining units. 

Can I require paid sick leave to be used in blocks of four hours at a time?

Not under most circumstances. Employers must allow employees to use Paid Sick leave in increments consistent with the Employer’s payroll system and practices, not to exceed one hour, unless they have applied for and received a variance from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (Rule 3.0). 

Are there any restrictions on the use of paid sick leave time?

Yes, employers are not required to allow employees to use any accrued paid sick leave time until 90 calendar days after their hire date.  Employers are not required to allow employees to use paid sick leave for any reasons other than what is specified in TMC 18.10. 

Can I choose to front load paid sick leave hours for my employees rather than using an accrual system?

Yes, nothing in TMC 18.10 precludes businesses from front loading paid sick leave hours for employees and allowing them to use the hours in advance of accrual. Employers who front load hours are still subject to the carry over provision and must allow carryover of up to 40 hours of paid sick leave at the end of each year. 

Do I have to pay employees for any unused paid sick leave time?

No, nothing in the law requires businesses to allow employees to cash out unused paid sick leave time, even if their employment is terminated.

What are the requirements for notifying employees of how much paid sick leave time they have available?

You may choose any reasonable system for providing notification. One example might be to list available hours on employees’ pay stubs. Employees must be notified at least once per month. 

Can I require documentation from employees to verify the reason they are using their paid sick leave?

Yes, documentation can be required for absences exceeding three days as long as a written policy is provided and available to employees outlining the requirements for submitting documentation. 

Is there a certain time period that an employer can require the documentation to be submitted by the employee?

If you require documentation, employees must have at least ten calendar days to submit it following the first day the employee uses the Paid Sick Leave (Rule 2.7). 

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

Yes, the law 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 sick leave. Regularly scheduled closures, such as school breaks or holidays, are not covered by the law. 

I have an employee who begins at 5 PM and works for me as a host through dinner rush. He doesn’t have a set end time for his shift. How do I calculate how many hours of paid sick leave he receives if he is sick and cannot work his shift?

When an employee uses paid sick leave for a shift of indeterminate length, you could base the number of hours worked by the replacement employee or an employee who worked that same or similar shift in the past (TMC 18.10.030.M).

I chose to pay out the balance of an employee’s accrued paid sick leave time to them upon separation of employment. Do I have any obligation to reinstate any paid sick leave time if they are rehired within 12 months?

No, you do not have to reinstate accrued leave that has been cashed out; however, the law requires employers to allow employees to carry over unused time. If you choose to allow payment at separation, your policy must provide employees the option of either cashing out accrued time or leaving their banked hours to potentially be reinstated if they are rehired within 12 months within the same benefit year (Rule 7.4).

The rules require that the employer and employee both agree when there is a shift swap or substitute shift to make up hours. Do I need to get this agreement in writing?

No, getting the agreement in writing is not a requirement; however, should questions arise about the nature of an arrangement, a signed agreement may serve as an accurate reflection of the interest and intentions of all involved parties.

When does the three-year period for record keeping begin?

New records are created when an employee works hours in Tacoma, earns leave, and/or uses leave. Each new record should be kept for three years.

I provide a Paid Time Off (PTO) policy that is more generous than the Paid Sick Leave law. If my employees use all of their accrued time for vacation and do not leave any "cushion" for paid sick leave, will I have to provide additional paid time off if they get sick?

No, employees can choose to use their paid time off for any reason permitted in an employer’s PTO policy. Once an employee uses all of their paid time off, they do not have a right to additional paid sick leave.

I front load and provide 60 hours of paid sick leave to each of my employees at the beginning of each year. Do I have to allow employees to carry over hours that they do not use into the next year?

Yes, the law requires employers to allow employees to carry over up to 40 hours of unused paid sick leave into the new benefit year.

How can I determine if someone is an employee, a contractor, or an employer?

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries can assist you. Visit lni.wa.gov to learn more. The Small Business Liaison at Washington State Department of Labor and Industries is an additional resource for answers to questions about small businesses. Call (800) 987-0145 or visit smallbusiness.lni.wa.gov .



Still Have Questions?

More information is available in the Tacoma Municipal Code (TMC) Chapter 18.10 and Paid Sick Leave Rules. Additional questions can be sent via email or (253) 591-5306.