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Washington Paid Sick Leave Alert: Construction Worker Definition Clarified by Washington Legislature



“You keep using that word. I do not think it means, what you think it means.”
– Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

You may recall our alert just this January regarding a change to the sick leave rules that was uniquely applicable to Washington construction employers. See, Employment Law in Motion | The New Year Brings New Sick Leave Rules to Washington | Miller Nash LLP.

In a surprisingly swift and decisive move, the legislature just passed a statutory update that was intended to reject the overbroad definition of “Construction Workers” that the Department of Labor & Industries had adopted at the end of 2023. That fix was signed by Governor Inslee on March 13, 2024, with immediate effect. See, 5979.PL.pdf (

Now, rather than covering all employees of non-residential construction employers in Washington, the rule that requires payout of accrued sick leave (or PTO if used to satisfy the sick leave requirements) for any employee who works less than 90 days for the employer now only applies to those who meet the specific statutory definition, which is: 

(A) “Construction worker” means a worker who performed service, maintenance, or construction work on a jobsite, in the field, or in a fabrication shop using the tools of the worker’s trade or craft.

Key Takeaways for Employers

As we said previously, Washington commercial construction employers will want to be sure to update their sick leave policies and practices now to incorporate the new payout requirements if the employee leaves employment before 90 days, and to make sure that the payout is at the correct amount (which the updated guidance states must include piece-rate earnings, commissions, non-discretionary bonuses, and differential rates of pay). They will also want to ensure their records include documentation of the start and end dates of their employment, as well as the amount paid out. These additional requirements were outlined in our prior alert, linked above.

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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