A bulletin on employment, labor, benefits and immigration law.
Articles Discussing General Topics In Washington Labor & Employment Law.
On February 8, 2012, the Washington Legislature passed SB 6239 to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington State. Governor Christine Gregoire has announced she will sign the bill on February 13. Meanwhile, opponents have promised to gather enough signatures to force a referendum on the law.
Finding no error in the trial courtâ€™s ruling that plaintiff-armored car employees â€œwere always engaged in active work duties when on the armored vehicles,â€ the Washington Court of Appeals has affirmed a $2.1 million judgment against an employer for failing to comply with Washingtonâ€™s meal and rest period law. Pellino v. Brinkâ€™s Inc., 164 Wn. App. 668, 2011 Wash. App. LEXIS 2541 (Wash. Ct. App., Div. I, Nov. 7, 2011), recons. denied (Dec. 22, 2011). In addition, the Court agreed that the company engaged in a class-wide pattern or practice of failing to provide sufficient meal and rest period time also in violation of Washington state law.
A labor arbitratorâ€™s award reinstating an employee who was terminated for hanging a noose in his workplace violated Washingtonâ€™s public policy against discrimination where the arbitratorâ€™s lesser discipline (only a 20-day suspension) prevented the employer from effectively discharging its state law duty of eradicating racial discrimination from the workplace. Thus, a Washington Court of Appeals panel has vacated the award. Intâ€™l Union of Operating Engâ€™rs, Local 286 v. Port of Seattle, No. 65037-8 (Wash. Ct. App. Oct. 17, 2011). However, because the trial court exceeded its authority in making its own decision about the appropriate employee discipline, the Court remanded the case for further proceedings.
The Washington Supreme Court has reaffirmed that employee tort claims alleging wrongful discharge in violation of public policy may be brought only in limited circumstances, where the public policy at issue is not adequately promoted through alternative mechanisms, such as statutory remedies or criminal sanctions.
On September 23, 2011, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn signed into law the Seattle Paid Sick Time and Paid Safe Time Ordinance. Effective on September 1, 2012, nearly all private sector employers must provide to employees who work in Seattle specified amounts of accrued, job-protected paid time off for personal illness, family care and other purposes. Seattle joins San Francisco, Washington D.C., Connecticut, and potentially Denver, in mandating that employers provide a paid time off benefit.
The Seattle City Council has approved a requirement that businesses in Seattle provide paid leave to employees when they or their family members fall ill or are a victim of domestic violence. Additionally, the new ordinance (Council Bill No. 117216) requires employers to post a notice informing employees of their leave rights. Approved on September 12, 2011, the new leave ordinance goes into effect on September 1, 2012.
A private employer in Seattle would be required to provide its employees with â€œpaid sick and safe timeâ€ to care for â€œtheir own or their family membersâ€™ health needs or their own or their family membersâ€™ safety or other needs resulting from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalkingâ€¦â€ under an ordinance proposed by Seattle City Councilman Nick Licata.
Rejecting an employeeâ€™s claims for wrongful termination, the Washington Supreme Court has held that the state Medical Use of Marijuana Act (â€œMUMAâ€) does not provide a civil cause of action for wrongful termination based on the employeeâ€™s authorized medical marijuana use. Roe v. TeleTech Customer Care Mgmt. (Colorado) LLC, No. 83768-6 (Wash. June 9, 2011). The Court further held that MUMA does not create a clear public policy supporting a tort claim for public policy wrongful discharge.
Responding to findings that approximately one in five employees â€œdirectly experience health-endangering workplace bullying, abuse, and harassmentâ€ and that â€œabusive work environments can have serious effects on targeted employees and serious consequences for employers,â€ a new bill has been introduced in both houses of Washingtonâ€™s state legislature that will provide a legal remedy for employees and legal incentives for employers to address workplace bullying.