Tacoma Serves as Model for Paid Sick Time Implementation

By Zoe Ziliak Michel

The people have spoken about the importance of paid sick time. With the passage of state-wide ballot initiatives in Arizona and Washington on November 8, the U.S. now has seven states and over 30 cities and counties with laws requiring employers to provide paid sick time. But passing these laws is only the first step in ensuring that workers can benefit from this vital labor protection. A paid sick time law will only be effective when the government office charged with implementing it takes responsibility for informing the public about the law and ensuring that employers comply. Today CLASP is releasing a new brief, “Learning from Predecessors but Breaking New Ground: Lessons from Tacoma’s Paid Sick and Safe Time Outreach and Enforcement.” This new piece describes the city of Tacoma, Washington’s strategies for ensuring the protection of workers’ right to paid sick time.

Tacoma uses multiple strategies to inform the city’s workers and employers of their rights and responsibilities. The city has set up information booths at job fairs so that job seekers will know what labor protections their new employer must provide. The agency has also posted information about the law’s “safe time” provision in clinics providing services for survivors of domestic violence. Further, Tacoma has partnered with employer organizations like the Washington Hospitality Association and unions such as the United Food and Commercial Workers to spread the word about the law’s provisions. These groups have helped the city explain to employers how best to comply with the law, while simultaneously informing workers how to use paid sick time or file a complaint against their employer if necessary.

Tacoma’s Office of Minimum Enforcement Standards has also made an impressive start in fulfilling its duty to enforce the city’s paid sick and safe time law. Though the law has been in effect for less than 10 months, the agency has already reached—over the phone, through posters, and at in-person presentations—thousands of the city’s residents, and its enforcement efforts have led to over $8,000 in paid sick time restored to workers.

Adding to CLASP’s series of briefs on paid sick time implementation, “Learning from Predecessors” provides paid sick time enforcement agencies and advocates with a model for how a small agency can strategically deploy resources to make a big impact for employees. Click here to read the brief.