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Coming Attractions in Washington: Changes in 2025 to Paid Sick Leave and the Equal Pay and Opportunities Act



Paid Sick Leave (PSL)

Since 2017, Washington has required employers to provide paid sick leave to non-exempt employees to be used for any of several purposes: (a) the employee’s personal medical care, (b) to care for a family member with medical needs, (c) to care for a child when their school or place of care is closed for a health-related reason, (d) closure of the employee’s place of business for a health-related reason, or (e) for reasons under the Washington Domestic Violence Leave Act.

Effective January 1, 2025, definitional changes to this statute will expand who is considered to be the employee’s family member or a child for purposes of using paid sick leave, and expanding when paid sick leave can be used for closure of a child’s school or place of care:

  • The definition of “family” is revised to include: (1) any individual who regularly resides in the employee’s home, unless that individual only resides in the same home and there is no expectation of care by the employee; and (2) an individual for whom the relationship creates an expectation that the employee will care for the person, and that individual depends on the employee for care.
  • “Child” will now also include the spouse of the employee’s child.
  • With regard to closure of a child’s school or place of care, in addition to closure for a health-related reason, paid sick leave can be used when the closure is due to a declaration of an emergency by a local, state, or federal government, which may be unrelated to health issues.

Key Takeaways

Employers should update their paid sick leave policies to reflect the changes above, prior to January 1, 2025. Alternatively, due to frequent changes to applicable laws, employers may wish to revise their policies and employee handbook to reference a more general “compliance with laws” and provide references and government-mandated notices for applicable leave laws—but consult your employment attorney before making this broad change. If you need more information on the paid sick leave requirements, Miller Nash would be happy to assist.

Equal Pay and Opportunities Act (EPOA)

Beginning in 2018, Washington specifically prohibited discrimination in pay and career advancement opportunities based on gender under the state EPOA.

Effective July 1, 2025, the protections of EPOA will be extended to several more protected categories: age, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, race, creed, color, national origin, citizenship or immigration status, honorably discharged veteran or military status, or the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability.

Among other things, EPOA prohibits disparities in pay and career advancement opportunities between similarly employed individuals of different genders (and in 2025 the other protected categories) that are based solely on the employee’s pay history, either with this employer or prior employers.

The statute does recognize that disparities based on bona fide job-related factors such as education, seniority systems, regional differences in compensation (including different local minimum wages), and other objective factors would not be unlawful discrimination, but the employer bears the burden of proving that a disparity is based on a bona fide job-related factor.

For factors to be considered bona fide job-related factors, they must be consistent with business necessity, not based or derived from a gender- (and next year, a protected category) based differential, and account for the entire differential.

In determining whether employees are “similarly employed,” the statute requires consideration whether the employees work for the same employer; the performance of the job requires similar skill, effort, and responsibility; and whether the jobs are performed under similar working conditions. The statute expressly states that job titles alone are not determinative.

EPOA also bars employers from requiring applicants to provide their pay history, prohibiting employees from discussing or disclosing their pay to others or taking any adverse action because an employee disclosed or discussed pay, or inquired about another employee’s pay.

The statute provides for a private cause of action with the ability to recover damages, as well as a right to file a complaint with the Department of Labor & Industries, and statutory penalties.

Key Takeaways

Employers may want to analyze their workforce compensation based on the new protected categories to determine if there are any unintended or unknown pay disparities, and whether such disparities are due tobona fide job-related factors. If questionable disparities are uncovered and are not supported by objective factors, the employer should take steps to resolve those disparities prior to July 1, 2025. Miller Nash attorneys can assist employers with compensation analyses.

Employers should also confirm that they do not have any policies prohibiting employees from disclosing or discussing their compensation, and that managers are trained to not take adverse action against employees for discussing compensation.

The legal issues impacting this topic are and will continue to be ever-changing (Employment Law in Motion!), and since publication of this blog post, new or additional information not referenced in this blog post may be available.

This article is provided for informational purposes only—it does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the firm and the reader. Readers should consult legal counsel before taking action relating to the subject matter of this article.

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