Washington Leave Laws


Vacation Leave

In Washington, employers are not required to provide employees with vacation benefits, either paid or unpaid. WA Dept. of Labor & Industries: Vacation Leave. If an employer chooses to provide such benefits, it must comply with the terms of its established policy or employment contract. WA Dept. of Labor & Industries: Vacation Leave.

An employer may lawfully establish a policy or enter into a contract denying employees payment for accrued vacation leave upon separation from employment. See Lapo v. Avalon Music, Inc., 19026-9-III (Wash.App. 5-31-2001); Walters v. Center Electric, Inc., 506 P.2d 883 (Wash. Ct. App. 1973).

An employer may also lawfully establish a policy or enter into a contract disqualifying employees from payment of accrued vacation upon separation from employment if they fail to comply with specific requirements, such as giving two weeks notice or being employed as of a specific date of the year. See Walters v. Center Electric, Inc., 506 P.2d 883 (Wash. Ct. App. 1973).

An employer is required to pay accrued vacation to an employee upon separation from employment if its policy or contract requires it. WA Dept. of Labor & Industries: Vacation Leave.

An employer is not required to pay accrued vacation leave upon separation from employment if the employer’s established policy or employment contract is silent on the matter. See Lapo v. Avalon Music, Inc., 19026-9-III (Wash.App. 5-31-2001); Walters v. Center Electric, Inc., 506 P.2d 883 (Wash. Ct. App. 1973).

An employer may cap the amount of vacation leave an employee may accrue over time. See Walters v. Center Electric, Inc., 506 P.2d 883 (Wash. Ct. App. 1973).

An employer may implement a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy requiring employees to use their leave by a set date or lose it. See Walters v. Center Electric, Inc., 506 P.2d 883 (Wash. Ct. App. 1973).


Sick Leave

Washington law requires employers to provide employees with paid sick leave WA Dept. of Labor & Industries: Paid Sick Leave.

An employer in Washington may also be required to provide an employee sick leave, including paid leave if available by means of a policy or contract, in accordance with Washington’s Family Care Act and Paid Family and Medical Leave Act and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act or other federal laws.


Holiday Leave

Washington law does not require private employers to provide employees with either paid or unpaid holiday leave. WA Dept. of Labor & Industries: Holiday Leave. In Washington, a private employer can require an employee to work holidays. A private employer does not have to pay an employee premium pay, such as 1½ times the regular rate, for working on holidays, unless such time worked qualifies the employee for overtime under standard overtime laws. If an employer chooses to provide either paid or unpaid holiday leave, it must comply with the terms of its established policy or employment contract.

State holidays

Visit our Washington State Holidays page for a list of holidays recognized and observed by the state of Washington as well as information regarding state laws governing holiday leave for public employers and employees.


Jury Duty Leave

An employer is not required to pay an employee for time spent responding to a jury summons or serving on a jury.

An employer must provide an employee sufficient leave of absence from work to serve as a juror.

An employer may not discharge, threaten, coerce, or harass an employee, or deny an employee promotional opportunities because the employee receives and/or responds to a summons, serves as a juror, or attends court for prospective jury service.

Washington Stat. 2.36.165; Washington Juror FAQ


Voting Leave

Washington does not have any laws that require employers to provide employees paid or unpaid time off to vote.


Bereavement Leave

Washington law does not require employers to provide employee bereavement leave. WA Dept. of Labor & Industries: Bereavement Leave Bereavement leave is leave that is taken by an employee due to the death of another individual, usually a close relative. Employers may choose to provide bereavement leave and may be required to comply with any bereavement policy or practice it maintains.


Washington State Family and Medical Leave

Washington state has its own family and medical leave program, a state-wide insurance system headed by the Washington employee security department. Employees and employers contribute to funding this program.

Most workers in Washington state are eligible for up to three months of paid leave per 12 months, with some possibly entitled to up to 16 weeks. Employees in Washington who use this paid leave may receive up to 90% of their weekly wages or up to $1,000 per week.

For a worker to be eligible for this program, employees in Washington must have worked a minimum of 820 hours or 16 hours per week over the last 12 months. This program covers seasonal, temporary, part-time, and full-time workers.

However, people employed on tribal land, federal workers, self-employed people who opt out on their own volition, and various union members subject to collective bargaining agreements are not eligible for this program.

Employees in Washington state may use this family and medical leave if they have a serious illness or are receiving preventative care or treatment, are taking care of a family member who is ill, and for certain military connected events.

Workers must, however, use a minimum of this leave at once, which is usually equal to a full day for most workers. On the other hand, part-time workers may need several days of leave to collect paid benefits.

There is also combined medical and family leave, which means that if there is a combination of your own illness with a family member’s illness that require care within a 12-month space, the worker is entitled to 16 weeks of leave.

After childbirth, new mothers may have up to 4 months of leave to bond with the baby, and new mothers who suffer any sort of incapacity due to pregnancy or childbirth may take up to 18 weeks off.

Who are eligible for paid leave in Washington?

Different laws ensure employees get the time off that they deserve.

First and foremost is the Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave Act. It is a state-run program handled by the Employment Security Department. It seeks to give eligible workers 12 to 16 weeks of paid leave annually.

The weekly pay that you’ll receive should be around 90% of your base rate as long as it wouldn’t exceed $1000 per week. It doesn’t matter what employee category a worker falls into.

The Paid Family and Medical Leave Act covers full-time, part-time, and seasonal employees. The only workers exempted from this program are federal workers and self-employed workers. However, some cases can warrant an exemption. 

Who is considered a “family member” in Washington leave laws?

These are close family members that include (but are not limited to) your grandparents, parents, spouse (or registered domestic partner or partner-in-law), and child (including your stepchild or foster child).

What are valid reasons to use a family and medical leave?

The reasons can vary, of course. However, those that are generally considered valid include the following:

  • For the employee to seek out preventative treatments and care
  • For the employee to get treatment and recover from an illness 
  • For any employee family member to seek out preventative treatments and care
  • For any employee family member to get treatment and recover from an illness
  • Certain military-related events, whether short-notice or otherwise

Does an employee need to provide notice before a leave?

Yes, they can. However, there are a few things that workers need to take note of. First, it is legal for employers to require reasonable notice before any leave, including sick leaves.

An employer may also require some documentation from the employee that can serve as proof if an employee takes three consecutive days of paid sick leave. Finally, these documents shouldn’t violate a worker’s right to privacy at the same time.


The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act

Employers in Washington state are also subject to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Washington employers are subject to this FMLA if they have at least 50 workers employed for a minimum of 20 weeks during the previous or current year.

Employees must have been with the same employer for at least 12 months, worked for a minimum of 1,250 hours during the last 12 months, and worked at a location with at least 50 employees within  75 miles are eligible.

Under the FMLA, employees can take a leave:

  • To recover from a serious health situation
  • To bond with or care for a newborn or adopted child
  • To take care of a family member with a serious health concern
  • To take care of qualifying circumstances that arise from a family member’s military duty
  • To take care of a member of the family who suffered a severe injury during deployment or active military duty

Employees are entitled to be reinstated to the same or equivalent position upon returning from leave. Employees also have the right to continue paying into and receiving health insurance during the leave, with the same costs and benefits.


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