Washington Leave Laws

April 5th 2024

Having leave from work is essential to ensure the well-being of employees, and to form a productive work environment. It is thus important for employees to be aware of their leave entitlements.

This article explores the leave laws in Washington, delving into the different categories of leave available to employees.

In Washington, there are two types of leave: mandatory and non-mandatory, with different guidelines and requirements. There may be alternative laws for employees working in the public or private sector.

This Article Covers

Washington Required Leave
Washington Non-Required Leave

Washington Required Leave

Employers in Washington must allocate a specified amount of leave time for their employees according to labor laws. The types of obligatory leave in Washington include:

1. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

  • Eligibility: In Washington, the state Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) works in tandem with the federal program. To be eligible for Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML), employees must have worked at least 820 hours within the state.
  • Duration: Leave can last 12 weeks or more and depends on the specific situation. Up to 16 weeks of combined medical and family leave can be obtained if you have more than one qualifying event in the same claim year.
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: Medical leave is available for serious illnesses, chronic illnesses, pregnancy issues, and medical treatments. Benefits are also available when an employee needs leave in order to take care of a family member, in the event of a military emergency or to bond with a newborn or adopted child for up to 12 months.
  • Pay: PFML provides up to 90% of an employee’s weekly pay — up to the maximum weekly benefit amount (which is updated annually).

2. Sick Leave

  • Eligibility: Employers are obligated by the Paid Sick Leave law to provide paid sick leave to employees.
  • Duration: One hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. The sick leave accrues at the beginning of the calendar year and any unused days are transferred to the next year.
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: Employees are permitted to use this leave for their own physical or mental health problems, as well as those of a family member. They can also use the leave if their workplace or child’s school closes, or if they need to take leave under the state’s Domestic Violence Leave Act (DVLA).

3. Jury Duty Leave

  • Eligibility: Employers are mandated to offer unpaid time off for any employee summoned for jury duty. Employees may need to validate their absence with a jury summons. It is forbidden to punish employees for participation.
  • Duration: The scheduled and expected duration of the jury service.
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: When summoned by the court to fulfill jury duties.
  • Pay: Employers are not obligated to pay for jury duty leave, although they may choose to do so if they have policies in place allowing for it.

4. Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Leave

  • Eligibility: Employees who have experienced sexual assault, domestic violence, or stalking, are eligible to take leave. This leave also applies to immediate family members. The employee may use sick leave, leave without pay, or paid time off.
  • Duration: The duration depends on the individual’s situation.
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: Leave can be used to seek legal and medical help, contact social services, develop a safety plan, and relocate.

5. Military Leave

  • Eligibility: All state employees are eligible for paid military leave. In addition, the FMLA allows for military leave. To qualify for FMLA military leave, the employer must have 50 or more employees within 75 miles and the employee must have worked 1,250 hours in the past 12 months. Elected officials may also be granted an extended leave of absence for active duty.
  • Duration: State employees are granted paid military leave for 31 days in each 12-month period. Under the FMLA, employees are allowed 12 weeks’ leave per year.
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: To complete military service. Under FMLA leave can be taken to care for a service member with a serious injury or illness or for qualifying exigencies related to a family member being on duty.
  • Pay: Employees will receive their standard wages.

6. Bereavement Leave

  • Eligibility: All employees are entitled to paid bereavement leave.
  • Duration: Up to 3 days.
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: Funerals and grieving periods.

7. Voting Time Leave

  • Eligibility: An employer needs to offer time off to their employees if they are unable to vote on Election Day due to their work schedule. However, this is only possible if the employer receives fair notice beforehand, failing which the employer will not be obliged to offer any time off for voting.
  • Duration: Up to 2 hours.
  • Circumstance for Utilizing Leave: To vote in an election.

Washington Non-Required Leave

In Washington there are types of leave which are not mandatory, unless explicitly stated in the employment contract or company policy. It is up to employers to decide whether to provide leave or not. The following leave options are not legally required:

1. Holiday Leave

In the state of Washington, employers are not obliged to provide time off for holidays unless their policies state otherwise. This being said, under the Family Care Act, employees may use any holiday leave they have in situations where they need to care for a child with a health condition or a family member with a serious or emergency health condition.

2. Vacation Leave

As with holiday leave, employers aren’t required to provide vacation leave unless specific circumstances arise – such as a need to care for a family member under the Family Care Act.

The official federal holidays in the table below are observed in Washington:

Holiday Date
New Year’s Day 1 January
Martin Luther King Jr. Civil Rights Day Third Monday in January
Presidents’ Day Third Monday in February
Memorial Day Last Monday in May
Independence Day 4 July
Labor Day First Monday in September
Columbus Day Second Monday in October
Veterans Day 11 November
Thanksgiving Day Fourth Thursday in November
Day after Thanksgiving Fourth Friday in November
Christmas Day 25 December

If you want to know more about the entitlements of employees in Washington, you can read our guides on Your rights as a salaried employee in Washington, and Your rights as an hourly employee in Washington. You can also learn more about Washington Labor Laws through our detailed guide.

Important Cautionary Note

When making this guide, we have tried to make it accurate, but we do not give any guarantee that the information provided is correct or up to date. We therefore strongly advise you seek advice from qualified professionals before acting on any information provided in this guide. We do not accept any liability for any damages or risks incurred for using this guide.