Rules for Paid Sick Leave in Tacoma

In January the Tacoma City Council adopted a mandatory paid leave ordinance that requires all employers in Tacoma to provide paid leave based on hours worked for employees to use for health-related issues. The requirement was adopted without a lot of specifics, which the City has been working out since then. On Wednesday the rules and regulations governing paid leave in Tacoma were finalized, and are now available for the public to view. 

What the paid leave ordinance guarantees:

  • Employees earn one hour of leave for every 40 hours worked, up to at least 24 hours each calendar year.
  • Employees can carry over up to 24 hours of unused leave into the following year, but are limited to using 40 hours of leave in that year.
  • Employers may also allow employees to cash out accrued leave at the end of the calendar year.
  • New employees can start using their leave 180 days after starting work.
  • Paid leave can be used in increments of one hour or greater for matters of personal health and safety, either of the employee or of a family member.
  • Paid leave can be used to cover all or part of a shift.
  • An employee is not entitled to compensation for lost tips, gratuities, travel allowances, or commission.

Who the ordinance covers:

  • The rules apply to anyone working 80 hours or more in Tacoma in a calendar year.
  • Employees become eligible as soon as there is a reasonable expectation that they will work 80 hours in Tacoma in a calendar year, and the employer must provide what would have been accrued for the hours worked to date.
  • Employees who work outside Tacoma are not covered, even if their employer is based in Tacoma.
  • An employee who lives in Tacoma and works from home, including telecommuting, is covered for all hours worked while physically located in the city, even if the Employer is physically located outside the City if the employee has or will work more than 80 in Tacoma in a year.
  • An employee who performs work for an Employer by telecommuting is not covered for the hours the employee is not physically located in the city, even if the Employer is physically located in the City.
  • An employee who travels through Tacoma is not covered if they make no stops for work purposes, but an employee who travels through and stops in the city as a purpose of their work is covered for all hours worked in Tacoma, including travel, but only if the employee works more than 80 hours of work in the city in a year.

Other details:

  • Employers can declare their “Calendar Year” as either beginning January 1, beginning on the date of hire, or the fiscal year, but must consistently use the chosen option.
  • The rules also make room for, but do not require employers to provide a "donated leave" program, or a policy allowing payouts of accrued leave when an employee leaves their employment.
  • Premium pay programs that offer employees additional pay in lieu of time off are allowed, subject to review and approval by the City.
  • Upon mutual consent by the employer and employees involved, employees may trade shifts without using paid leave for missed hours or shifts.
  • An employer of an eating and/or drinking establishment may offer substitute hours or shifts to an employee who has requested to use paid leave, but the employee is not required to accept. If the employee accepts and works the substitute hours or shifts, the employer may deduct the amount of time worked during the substitute shift or the amount of time requested for Paid Leave, whichever is smaller, from the Employee’s accrued leave time.
  • If an employee works in multiple cities, the employer may require that accrued Paid Leave be used only for shifts in Tacoma. 


  • Businesses will need to certify to the City on their business license applications that their paid leave policy complies with Tacoma's minimum standards.
  • Complaints will need to be filed with the City in writing.
  • The City will follow up on complaints and attempt to reconcile the situation between employer and employee before punitive action is taken.
  • The City will issue a decision within 60 days of receiving a written complaint.
  • The City has the power to issue a $250 penalty for noncompliance.
  • There is a mechanism for employers and employees to request an administrative review of a decision, and to appeal the findings to the Hearing Examiner.

​Employers in Tacoma will need to begin following these rules starting in February 2016.

Learn more and download a pdf of the complete final draft of rules and regulations at

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