Get ready for paid sick/safe time (PSST)

Home » Get ready for paid sick/safe time (PSST)

After many discussions, and much debate, Seattle City Council passed Ordinance 123698 on September 12, 2011. That law, also known as Paid Sick/Safe Time (PSST) takes effect on September 1.

While those who worked hard on this issue know about this important date, our job now is to make sure others know about it as well.

The catalyst for this law was simple: we wanted to make sure our workers were taken care of, and that is what this law does: it is meant to give employees paid time off when they’re ill, or when they need to care for a family member with medical needs.

The city is now making every attempt for both employers and employees to know about these upcoming changes and the impacts.

The Office of Civil Rights is offering free workshops open to the public for those who want to learn more:

  • Tuesday, August 21, 12 noon: North Seattle (Ballard Campus Swedish Medical Center, 5300 Tallman Ave. NW)
  • Tuesday, August 28, 5:30 pm: West Seattle (Neighborhood House, 6400 Sylvan Way SW)
  • Wednesday, August 29, 3 pm: Capitol Hill  (Century Ballroom, 915 E. Pine Street)

Information about technical assistance to businesses is also available on the Office of Civil Rights Website.

There is a lot of information. Below are the basics.

Requirements differ according to a tiered system where Tier 1 employers have more than 4 employees, up to 49 employees; Tier 2 employers have 49-249 employees, and Tier 3 employers have 250 employees. (See below for details on how part time and telecommuter employees are treated under the law.)

Sick time can be used for:

  • Personal illness or preventative care.
  • Care for a family member’s illness or preventative care (child, grandparent, parent, parent-in-law, spouse and registered domestic partner).

Safe time can be used for:

  • Survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
  • Closure of workplace or child’s school or place of care by public official to limit exposure to infectious agent, biological toxin or hazardous material.

Who is covered?

Employees who perform work in Seattle:

  • Full-time, part-time, temporary, and occasional-basis employees.
  • Employees who telecommute in Seattle.
  • Employees who stop in Seattle as a purpose of their work.


  • Federal, state, or county government employers
  • Employees who work or telecommute outside of Seattle.
  • Employees who travel through Seattle.
  • Students enrolled in a work study program.
  • Two-year exemption for new small and medium-sized employers (Tier 1 and Tier 2)

PSST and employer attendance policies:

  • Absence control policies: PSST cannot be counted as an absence that may result in discipline.
  • Clear instance or pattern of abuse: Employer can take reasonable action (e.g. discipline) for:
    • Repeated absences.
    • Absences that precede or follow regular days off, or some other pattern without valid reason.
    • Obtaining or using paid sick time improperly.

Retaliation protection

  • Retaliation is illegal. Employers are prohibited from disciplining or discriminating against employees who have exercised their rights under the Ordinance.
  • Employee and third-party complaints are permitted.
  • Broad protection against retaliation: Anti-retaliation provision applies to ALL employers with one or more employees.

Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA):

Waiver of rights is permitted:

  • In CBA or MOA (Memorandum of Agreement).
  • Must be in clear and unambiguous language.
  • Must include a specific reference to the Ordinance.

Categorization of businesses

 General Information  Small (Tier 1)
 Medium (Tier 2)
 Large (Tier 3)
Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) More than 4-49 employees More than 49 to 249 employees 250 or more employees
Accrual of paid sick/safe time 1 hour / 40 hours worked 1 hour / 40 hours worked 1 hour / 30 hours worked
Use of paid sick/safe time 40 hours / calendar year 56 hours / calendar year 72 hours / calendar year
Carryover of unused
paid sick/safe time
40 hours / calendar year 56 hours / calendar year 72 hours / calendar year

Again, we know this is a lot of information. Please use the resources available and if you have questions or need more information, we are here to help.