Webinar June 6th, 2018
Washington Paid Family & Medical Leave

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Overview:

This webinar is intended for HR and administrative professionals with employees in Washington state. Beginning 1/1/2020, Washington will be the fifth state in the nation to offer paid family and medical leave benefits to workers. All Washington employers, including employers who are not based in Washington but have employees in the state of Washington, will be required to comply with the paid family and medical leave law.
 
Topics covered will include:
  • The provisions of the Washington PFMLA
  • How an employee qualifies for benefits
  • What are the employers obligations?
  • How the PFMLA interacts with existing paid time off policies and other leave laws 
  • The increasing complexity of administering leaves of absence
  • Potential impacts for employers

Presenters:

Jean Shearer- Total Absence Management Consultant, The Partners GroupMike Griffin - Principal and Office Litigation Manager, Jackson Lewis
Jean brings over 30 years of experience working with employers on the design and implementation of employee benefit plans and strategies. Her areas of expertise include: Total Absence Management, FMLA and ADA, health and productivity, financial analysis and data analytics. Contact: jshearer@thepartnersgroup.com 425.285.2304
 Michael Griffin is a Principal and the Litigation Manager of the Seattle, Washington office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is also the Disability, Leave and Health Management coordinator for the Seattle office. Michael provides advice and counsel to employers on a wide range of workplace law issues, including employee leave, disability and religious accommodation, harassment avoidance, and restrictivecovenants. Click here for bio

 

Q&A:

The Q&A that we are providing is current with information we have access to as of June 6th, 2018. Please note that the Washington Paid Family Leave Law is still in the rulemaking phase and final regulations are not due out until later this year. This should not be construed as legal advice. We recommend contacting your legal counsel for advice specific to your organization.

Q: Will those benefits paid to an employee be taxable or tax free?

A: Benefits will most likely be taxable since it is considered wage replacement.

Q: We are an Oregon employer. Should we be concerned about this as we do have multiple employees who spend portions of a day (or even entire days) working in Washington?

A: Yes, if the Washington employees work 820 hours in Washington.

Q: So premium are due starting 1-1-19 but benefits are eligible until 1-1-20? ESD is prefunding the pool?

A: Correct

Q: For an organization with 100 employs, only 20 of which are in Washington, the employer would not be required to pay the employer premiums, correct?

A: Correct

Q: If we are in current CBA negotiations is this something that should be included in the new CBA?

A: Yes

Q: If the Employee has an obligation to report 30 days foreseeable leave to the ESD – do they also have this obligation to notify the employer? If not, why wouldn’t ESD provide notice of rights to the employee when provided foreseeable notice?

A: Yes,  employees must provide their employer 30 days notice when the qualifying event is  foreseeable. (RCW 50A.04.030)

Q: Fathers are also eligible for the 12 full weeks for the birth/placement of a child?

A: Yes

Q: Does WPDLA run concurrent with this?

A: Most likely no. See RCW 50A.04.250

Q: Can you clarify the point about WA PFL not being intermittent…are you saying where time requested is less than a full day?

A: Yes, the WA PFL does not provide payment for leaves of less than 8 consecutive hours.

Q: Are you saying that our district employees will file with the ESD to qualify for a leave under the paid leave law? Does this take the authorization to take leave out of the school district’s hands.

A: No. The employer may still challenge an employee’s application for leave under this law. The  employer will still have some involvement and ability to deny leave that does not qualify.  But if the leave qualifies and the employee is eligible, as with the FMLA generally, the employee must be permitted to take the leave and be paid for it.

Q: Are employers able to require health care certification for Paid Family and Medical Leave?

A: Yes, RCW 50A.04.035 states the employee must provide “a document” authorizing the employee’s (or family member’s) healthcare provider to disclose the employee’s (or family member’s) health care information “in the form of the certification of a serious health condition.” 

Q: Will the state of Washington be tracking the hours of employees? How can we know how many hours the new employee has actually worked previous to our company?

A: Yes, as of now, it seems that ESD will track employees’ hours worked in Washington

Q: We have a short-term disability plan that covers mothers for 6 weeks following childbirth, employees could then use their 12 weeks of WA PMLA following this, correct?

A: Following the 6 weeks of disability benefits through your company plan, the employee could  use  12 weeks of  WA PFML

Q: We are an employer with 185 employees total, but only 15 are in Washington. Do we need to pay the employer portion of the premium?

A: No, Employers with fewer than 50 employees in the state are not required to pay the employer portion of premiums for family and medical leave. RCW 50A.04.115(5)(a)

Q: Like NY, can you require use of PTO when FMLA is running concurrent if that is your FMLA policy?

A: It appears that you will not be able to require an employee to use PTO concurrent with their WA PFML

Q: I work for a school district, we have CBA’s, but Washington may become a “Right to Work” state, where people can opt out of being a part of the union/cba. When this happens, will this affect this?

A: Possibly, but not likely unless the district (employer) is no longer a party to a CBA. 

Q: Does the = FMLA protection also mean benefit protection?

A: Yes, the same rules apply for maintaining group health benefits as under FMLA (and the employee still has to pay his/her share of premiums).

Q: Can you clarify, can employee receive PTO through the Family Paid Leave and the employer paid leave at the same time?

A: An employer may allow an employee who has accrued vacation, sick or PTO to choose whether: a) to take such leave or b) not to take such leave and received paid family or medical leave benefits. See RCW 50A.04.045 (2)

Q: For employers in the 50-150 range who apply for the $3000 grants to hire temporary replacements,  will all applicants receive grants or will they be provided as available/on a case by case basis/other?

A: An eligible small employer may not apply for a grant more than 10 times per calendar year, or more than once for each employee on family or medical leave.

Q: For school district employers, where we have employees who only work 180 days per year, how do we keep qualified teachers in the classroom  for our scholars? There is a teacher shortage and we are already grabbing people off the street to fill in when no teachers are available to sub. A big dilemma. School District have great benefits and did not need to be included in this leave law. 

A: School district employers, known to have good benefits, are one example of  the type of employer that may want to consider the voluntary option.

Q: If an employer isn’t required to pay the employer portion of the premium, would the employee pay 100%?

A: No, the employee would pay only their portion

Q: One of the slides states that employers can request records/documentation filed with the state by the employee (whose applying for the paid leave. How is HIPAA being maintained if an employer is able to request/access medical records on an employee to confirm legitimacy of a claim?

A: This is no different than when an employer requires medical certification for FMLA leave.

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