Arnold Hewitt works at Auburn Dairy in shipping and receiving. He’s been a Teamster for over 2 decades. Last month, like many Washingtonians during the rainy January, Arnold caught the flu and fell seriously ill. Flu and working in an environment with open dairy products don’t mix so well, so taking a sick day seemed like the obvious choice. However, it wasn’t that simple.
Calling out sick, even with a perfectly reasonable excuse, would count towards his occurrences that eventually add up to a written warning. Furthermore, he knew that he only had 200 hours in his sick bank, which meant he wouldn’t be compensated for his first day off work.
Choosing to protect his co-workers and sensitive milk products, Arnold ended up staying home for 2 workdays, but it was not until he got his next paycheck that he knew things have changed.
“I was shocked,” he said. “Not only did I not incur any penalty, but I also got full pay for both days.”
What Arnold and many workers like him are learning is that Washington has voted for initiative I-1433 last fall. The new law requires employers to provide nearly all of their employees with paid sick leave as of Jan. 1, 2018.
"Now it’s not up to the company to pick and choose who they want to pay. I can’t believe it took this law to make sick pay fair across the board."
Employees will be able to accrue 1 hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked. The law applies to both full-time and part-time non-exempt employees. Workers can use paid sick leave to care for themselves and family members or if their workplace or child’s school is shut down for any health-related reason. Situations of domestic violence are also accounted for.
The same law includes other worker-friendly changes. It increases the minimum wage over the next several years and ensures that tips and service charges are given to the appropriate staff. It also protects employees from retaliation when exercising their rights.
“Now it’s not up to the company to pick and choose who they want to pay,” Arnold reflects. “I can’t believe it took this law to make sick pay fair across the board.”