Tacoma, Washington has joined Seattle and a growing list of cities (and states) requiring employers to provide paid sick and safe leave (PSSL) to their employees. Tacoma’s ordinance goes into effect on Feb. 1, 2016. Between now and Feb. 1, 2016, the city will publish a model notice for employers to provide to employees, and possibly issue rules and hold public meetings.

Basics of the Ordinance

Unlike Seattle (where the accrual rate of PSSL is based on the size of the employer), Tacoma has one accrual rate for all employers. However, it excludes single-employee businesses and public sector employers from coverage.

Under the Tacoma ordinance, employees accrue leave starting on Feb. 1, 2016, or on their first day of employment if hired after Feb. 1, 2016. Employees must wait 180 days from the commencement of their employment before using leave (an employer may make the waiting period shorter). Employers are required to provide one hour of PSSL per 40 hours worked to employees who work in Tacoma, up to 24 hours per year. Additionally, employees who work in Tacoma on an occasional basis (defined by the ordinance as more than 80 hours per calendar year) are eligible to accrue and use PSSL. Employees may carry over up to 24 hours of leave at the end of the year and are permitted to use up to 40 hours during the next calendar year (using a combination of leave that was carried over from the previous year and newly accrued leave).

Employees can use the leave for their own health condition or care for their family members. Additionally, employees may use the leave for reasons related to domestic violence, when their place of business or child’s school/daycare is closed by order of a public official, and for bereavement leave for family members.

How Does Tacoma’s Ordinance Compare with Seattle’s Ordinance?

There are key differences between the Tacoma and Seattle ordinances that employers should be aware of to ensure compliance if they have workforces in both cities. Key differences include:

Key Elements



Who is Covered?

Private sector employers with more than 4 employees are covered.

Private sector employers with more than 1 employee are covered.

Annual PSSL Accrual?

>4 to < 50 employees: 40 hours

≥51- < 250: 56 hours

≥ 250: 72 hours (unless an employer has a PTO policy that raises the required amount to 108 hours).

Up to 24 hours per year (employees may also carry over up to 24 hours and use up to 40 hours in the next calendar year).

Accrual Rates

>4 but < 250 employees: 1 per 40 hours worked.

≥250 employees: 1 per 30 hours worked.

1 per 40 hours worked (regardless of size of employer).

How is an Occasional Employee Defined?

Defined as working at least 240 hours in Seattle during a year.

Defined as working at least 80 hours in Tacoma during a year.

Rehire Provision

If an employee is rehired within 7 months, within 2 calendar years, the employer must reinstate any accrued and unused PSSL to the employee.

If an employee is rehired within 6 months in the same calendar year, the employer must reinstate any accrued and unused PSSL to the employee.

Bereavement Leave

Not specifically designated as a use under the ordinance.

PSSL may be used for bereavement.

Request for Doctor’s Note

Employer may not ask for a doctor’s note until after an employee has missed 3 consecutive workdays.

Employer may follow its usual policies/practices.

Rules and Regulations

The Tacoma ordinance grants authority to the city’s finance director to promulgate rules and regulations to enforce the ordinance, including holding public meetings. Tacoma employers should monitor developments, as city-issued rules and regulations may impact this preliminary summary. We hope to see additional information from the city of Tacoma to facilitate a smooth transition well before the ordinance goes into effect on Feb. 1, 2016.