Washington State House Democrats


Rep. Sells’ 1/12/18 Update: Priorities / Paid Sick Leave / Gender Pay Equity

Welcome to the 2018 Legislative Session

Every year, the Speaker of the House starts off the legislative session with an opening day speech that highlights past successes, shares our values, and suggests priorities that lawmakers will tackle in the coming months.

Speaker Chopp reminded us that we are One Washington. In the Legislature, we try to look out for communities across the state and ensure that everyone has a fair chance at the American Dream. We believe in putting people first.

“Working together in good faith, our accomplishments will continue, as long as there are people like you willing to make it happen,” said Speaker Frank Chopp.

He’s right. If we work together and focus on people first, we can accomplish a lot.

Opening ceremony

This year, I am focusing on:

  • Legislation to ensure equal pay for women,
  • A capital budget for school construction and infrastructure,
  • Expanded opportunities for education beyond high school, including more apprenticeships, certificates, and degrees,
  • Care and treatment for people fighting opioid drug addiction,
  • And working with the labor community to understand how we can best support workers involved in the gig economy.

This is an ambitious list and there’s a lot to do in a 60-day session. I’m ready to get to work.

Happy New Year for Working Families

In 2016, voters approved Initiative 1433, which increased the minimum wage and required employers to provide paid sick leave starting January 1, 2018.

Happy Family

A couple of months ago, the Department of Labor and Industries finalized the process for implementation of this new law. The newly adopted rules cover how the law will be carried out, including accrual and usage.

Under the new Paid Sick Leave law:

  • All non-exempt employees who work in the state of Washington are entitled to accrue paid sick leave starting on January 1, 2018.
  • Employees will accrue at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked, and may carry over up to 40 hours of unused paid sick leave to the following year.
  • Accrued paid sick leave will be available for use beginning the 90th calendar day after the start of their employment.
  • Paid sick leave can be used by the employee:
  • To care for themselves or a family member.
  • When the employees’ workplace or their child’s school or place of care has been closed by a public official for any health-related reason.
  • For absences that qualify for leave under the state’s Domestic Violence Leave Act.
  • Employers may allow employees to use paid sick leave for additional purposes.

For more information, please view the Department of Labor & Industries’ fact sheet on the impacts of Initiative 1433.

Gender Pay Equity

I am a proud co-sponsor of the Equal Pay Opportunity Act, House Bill 1506, which addresses workplace practices to achieve gender pay equity. This legislation updates, for the first time since its passage in 1943, the Washington State Equal Pay Act by prohibiting pay secrecy policies, allowing discussion of wages between employees, and banning retaliation against workers that ask for equal pay.

Sells equal pay

While our country has been working hard to close the gender pay gap, women are still paid only 79 cents to a man’s dollar. In 2015 alone, the wage gap cost Washington state women $18 billion.

Achieving equal pay means that poverty of single mothers would decline by 60 percent. It would increase our state’s GDP by 2.5 percent. It’s long past time to see equal pay for equal work in Washington state – this is commonsense legislation, and we’re seeing strong support for this bill from folks all over the state.

As the Chair of the House Labor & Workplace Standards committee, I had the honor of scheduling this bill for a vote this past Tuesday. The bill has now been passed out of committee, and I am looking forward to seeing it move through the rest of the legislative process to become law.

Enacting HB 1506 will send the message to employees and employers, men and women, and our girls and boys that indeed, all of us are created – and must be treated – equally.

Thanks for taking the time to read my newsletter. If you have questions or comments, please contact my office.


Sells Sig