The Washington State Legislature has been busy in 2007 enacting a number of substantial provisions related to employment issues. Here is a brief overview of a few key changes.
1. Pre-Employment Background Checks
Employers may procure information regarding an applicant’s credit worthiness, credit standing, or credit capacity only where (1) the report is substantially related to the applicant’s potential job and the reasons for using such information are disclosed to the applicant, or (2) when such a report is required by law. The old law only required notice to the applicant. The new statute is silent about reports of criminal history, general reputation, or personal characteristics, however, so employers should still be entitled to such information as long as they follow the statute’s notice and procedural requirements.
2. Broadened Definition of “Disability” under Washington’s Law Against Discrimination
The Legislature specifically rejected the Washington Supreme Court’s 2006 adoption of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act’s definition of “disability.” Under the new law, a “disability” is a sensory, mental, or physical “impairment” that exists per record, can be medically diagnosed, or is perceived to exist by the employer. The qualifying impairment can be temporary or permanent, common or uncommon, and mitigated or unmitigated, regardless whether it limits an individual’s ability to work a particular job, generally function, or engage in any other activity. To qualify for reasonable accommodation, the employee’s impairment must be known to the employer, and the employee must show either (1) that the impairment substantially limits the individuals’ ability to perform the job, or (2) medical documentation demonstrating that performing the job without the accommodation will aggravate the impairment and substantially limit the employee’s ability to do the job. Employers should be aware that an employee may not qualify as “disabled” under federal law, but may meet Washington’s test.
3. Family Medical Leave Insurance Act Provides Paid Leave to New Parents
Effective October 1, 2009, the new family leave law will provide benefits up to $250/week for up to 5 weeks of time off to parents of a newborn or newly adopted child. There are some eligibility requirements, and benefits are prorated for individuals who worked less than 35 hours/week or are on leave but working reduced hours. The new law also provides job protection to employees of a 25+ employee company in certain circumstances. Funding for the leave will likely be provided by a payroll tax on employers and employees, although the Legislature has until January 2008 to decide. 4. Veterans and Servicemen Now a Protected Class Veterans and members of the active and reserve military are now a protected class under Washington’s anti-discrimination laws. This also means that discrimination claims based on veteran or military status may now be brought in state court.
For more information, please contact Philip Lempriere or Catharine Morisset of our Seattle office at (206) 622- 3790.
Keesal, Young & Logan Employment Group