Washington state has one of the most robust paid leave programs in the country, but it’s also subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an unpaid leave program that guarantees up to 12 weeks of leave for eligible employees in all 50 states.
Depending on what type of leave of absence you’re requesting, you may be eligible for one or both programs. Here’s everything you need to know about FMLA in Washington, as well as any additional programs you may qualify for under state leave laws.
What Is FMLA in Washington?
The Family and Medical Leave Act was passed in 1993, and entitles employees to 12 weeks of time off for any of the following qualifying reasons:
- To care for a seriously ill family member
- To treat the employee’s own serious health condition
- A “qualifying exigency” related to an active duty service member
- The birth of a child, the adoption of a child, or the placement of a foster child
In addition to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period, employees are entitled to return to work in the same or similar position, and are entitled to keep the same health insurance while on FMLA leave.
Who Is Eligible for FMLA in Washington?
As a federal law, FMLA applies to employees anywhere in the U.S., but there are strict eligibility requirements. According to the Department of Labor at DOL.gov, you must work for a “covered employer” that meets one of the following criteria:
- Is a public agency at the local, state, or federal level
- Is a primary or secondary school (public or private)
- Is a private-sector employer with at least 50 employees
You’ll need to work for the same employer for at least 12 months in total (not necessarily all at once), and work at least 1,250 hours within the year before taking leave.
In addition, the worksite must have at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius, which may exclude some employees at regional offices or those who work from home.
What Is Paid Family and Medical Leave?
Although employers in all states must abide by federal family and medical leave laws, individual states are free to create leave entitlements of their own. In addition to FMLA, Washington employees are covered under the Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) Program, which has been active since January 2020.
The situations that are covered by PFML are the same as those covered by FMLA:
- The birth or adoption of a new child
- The placement of a child in foster care
- The serious illness or injury of a family member
- The employee’s own serious medical condition
- Qualifying exigencies related to military service
But PFML expands the eligibility requirements in a few key ways: You only need to work a total of 820 hours in Washington state in the previous year (compared to 1,250 hours under FMLA), and those can be for any employer.
It also expands the definition of a family member to include in-laws, grandparents, and registered domestic partners, and adds a qualifying situation not covered under FMLA in Washington: bereavement leave following the death of a newborn.
However, a few types of employees are excluded from PFML, including employees who work for federal employers or for businesses on tribal land. Union workers in collective bargaining agreements may also be excluded.
How to Apply for FMLA in Washington
Both PFML and FMLA require you to give your employer 30 days’ notice of your intent to take leave (or as soon as possible if the circumstances were unforeseeable).
For parental leave, you’ll need to take leave within the first 12 months following a birth or adoption, or the placement of a child in foster care.
Beyond that, the process will vary depending on what type of leave you’re requesting. For personal medical leave under FMLA, you’ll need to fill out form Form 380-E, and your employer may request a medical certification from your healthcare provider.
For military caregiver leave, you’ll need to fill out FMLA Form WH-385 — but there’s a different form if the family member is a veteran.
What About PFML?
The PFML program is administered by the Washington Employment Security Department, which also handles unemployment insurance claims in Washington state.
The program is funded through premiums deducted from your gross wages, of which 73.22% is paid by the employee and 26.78% by the employer.
The Washington Employment Security Department will determine how much money you’ll take home while on leave. You can expect up to 90% of your pay, up to a maximum of $1,327 per week.
Although you’re limited to 12 weeks of leave for each condition, you may be eligible for up to 18 weeks of medical and family leave combined.
You can take an eligibility quiz, apply online, and upload your supporting documents at PaidLeave.wa.gov. Your employer will be notified that you’ve applied.
Other Entitlements in Washington
FMLA and PFML aren’t the only programs available to employees in Washington. If you choose to take paid family medical leave concurrently with paid sick leave, you may be eligible to receive more pay per day.
Here are three other options worth considering in addition to FMLA in Washington:
Paid Sick Leave
Most employees in Washington state accumulate paid sick leave, which you can use in cases of mental or physical illness, a serious injury, or domestic violence. You can also use paid sick leave to care for a family member.
Typically, you’ll be entitled to one hour of sick leave per 40 hours worked, and you can start using them 90 days after being hired.
You’ll receive your usual hourly wage from your employer, and you can receive this in addition to any benefits you’re eligible for under PFML.
Washington Family Care Act
The Washington Family Care Act allows employees to choose any type of leave in order to care for a sick family member — but not to address their own serious health condition.
This means you can draw from multiple types of leave if any one of them isn’t sufficient to address your situation. This can include:
- Paid time off (PTO)
- Sick leave
- Vacation time
- Personal holidays
Your employer can’t tell you which type of leave you can draw from.
Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD)
Finally, pregnant employees may have additional protections under Washington law. The Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) entitles eligible employees to “pregnancy disability leave” separate from parental leave.
This means parents may be eligible to take paid family leave for prenatal or postnatal care, as well as additional time off to bond with a child.
Use Pulpstream to Manage Employee Leave Requests
Employees in Washington can rest assured that they have multiple job protections and leave entitlements at both the state and federal level. But figuring out which leave policy applies to each case can be a challenge for your human resources department.
Whether your employees are eligible for FMLA in Washington or state-level paid leave benefits, it’s important to get the paperwork right.
With Pulpstream, you can create an FMLA eligibility checklist, automatically generate documents, and take other steps to simplify the leave of absence process. Best of all, our no-code interface means you don’t need technical know-how to figure it out.
Contact us today to request a demo and see how Pulpstream can help!