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Disclosure of State Employees’ Birthdates Not Protected Per Washington Supreme Court

The Washington State Supreme Court ruled recently that state employees’ birthdates associated with their names are not exempt from disclosure pursuant to a freedom of information records request. In so holding, the Court strictly construed the applicable statute that did not expressly exempt birthdates from disclosure. Wash. Pub. Emps. Assn. v. State Ctr for Childhood Deafness & Hearing Loss. Private and public entities across the country that respond to countless requests for information may want to rethink their approach.

Washington Supreme Court Approves Trucking Industry Piece-Rate Compensation Practices

Last year, the Washington Supreme Court considered the following certified question: “Does the Washington Minimum Wage Act require non-agricultural employers to pay their piece-rate employees per hour for time spent performing activities outside of piece-rate work?” On September 5, 2019, the court answered with a resounding no.

Airline Alert: U.S. District Court Rules in Favor of Airline Flight Crew Employees on Paid Sick Leave Challenge

Executive Summary: On October 11, 2019, a federal judge for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington ruled that Washington state’s paid sick leave law does not violate the Constitution or federal preemption law, thereby guaranteeing sick leave benefits for airline flight crew employees based in Washington.

Washington Employers Must Provide Break Time and Space for Employees to Express Breast Milk

As of July 28, 2019, Washington employers with 15 or more employees are required to provide reasonable break time for employees to express breast milk. (See House Bill 1930 and Revised Code of Washington 43.10.005.) Break time must be provided each time the employee needs to express breast milk, and must be provided for up to two years after the child’s birth. If the employer has space in its business or worksite, it must also provide a private location, other than a bathroom, for the employee to express milk; if no private space is available, the employer must work with the employee to find a convenient location and work schedule to accommodate her needs.

Non-Agricultural Employers May Use Workweek Averaging to Satisfy State Minimum Wage Obligations in Washington

On September 5, 2019, the Washington Supreme Court confirmed that non-agricultural employers may use a workweek averaging methodology to satisfy the Washington Minimum Wage Act in Valerie Sampson et al v. Knight Transportation Inc. et al. In other words, non-agricultural employers can satisfy their state minimum wage obligations by showing that an employee’s total wages for a workweek, when divided by the total hours worked during that week, results in a figure that is equal to or greater than the state minimum wage.

Latest Legal Developments For Washington Employers, 2019 Edition

As predicted, Washington’s legislature has been busy over the past few months passing new laws that directly impact how employers conduct business. There have also been several key court decisions impacting workplace law of which all employers should be aware. What happened? We’ve put together summaries of the more significant recent developments for you below.

Washington State Takes on the Arbitration of Harassment and Discrimination Claims

Like many other states, Washington recently adopted legislation seemingly preventing the arbitration of harassment and discrimination claims in direct response to the #MeToo movement.

Washington Weighs in on Obesity Discrimination

The state of Washington has weighed in on the debate as to whether obesity is a disability under disability discrimination laws. In Taylor v. Burlington Northern Railroad Holdings Inc., a case that wound its way through the courts for nine years, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit certified this question to the Washington Supreme Court: “Under what circumstances, if any, does obesity qualify as an ‘impairment’ under the [WLAD]?” The Washington Supreme Court responded by holding that obesity is always an impairment under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) because it is a “’physiological disorder, or condition’ that affects multiple body systems listed in the statute.” Therefore, an employer who takes employment action against an individual because the employer perceives the individual to be obese, may run afoul of the WLAD.

Washington State Supreme Court Holds State Law Bars Discrimination Based on Obesity

Washington’s highest court has ruled that obesity is always an “impairment” under Washington’s Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), regardless of whether obesity is related to some other medical condition. Accordingly, treating job applicants or employees adversely based on their actual or perceived obesity is unlawful disability discrimination unless the obesity conflicts with a bona fide occupational qualification or prevents the worker from properly performing the job. The court did not define obesity, however, and did not address whether an employer’s knowledge of an individual’s weight or body mass index alone can trigger a duty to consider reasonable accommodation.

Washington State Pushes Back First Reporting Deadline for Paid Family and Medical Leave Law

The Washington Employment Security Department (ESD) has pushed back the first reporting deadline under this new law to August 31, 2019. By that date, all Washington employers must file reports about their employees, including their wages and associated hours worked during the first two quarters of 2019.
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