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New Paid Leave for Agriculture Employers – Effective August 18

by | Aug 19, 2020 | Agricultural Law, Land Use, Environmental Law

On Thursday of last week, Governor Inslee issued Proclamation 20-67 which imposes a new two-week paid leave program on agricultural employers that have been excluded from the federal paid leave program (FFCRA) because they have more than 500 employees. The Governor’s paid leave program goes into effect August 18.

The Governor’s proclamation states that it, “prohibit[s] any food production employer from continuing to operate between August 18, 2020, and November 13, 2020, unless the food production employer (“Employer”) provides its workers (“Covered Workers”) with emergency supplemental paid sick leave (“Paid Leave”) for a qualifying event”.

Covered employers include orchards, fields, dairies, industries identified in WAC 296-307-006 (except tree farms and forestry), fruit/vegetable packing warehouses, meat and seafood processors and packers, and farm labor contractors. The proclamation covers all food production workers, including both domestic, seasonal, temporary, and H-2A. The only exclusion is for workers who are already subject to and provided federal paid leave under FFCRA.

This new paid leave program is capped at 80 hours for a full-time employee. Employees that work less than “full-time” and less than 40 hours in the preceding two weeks shall receive paid leave equal to the total number of hours they are normally scheduled during that two-week period, or if the employee works a variable number of hours, fourteen times the average number of hours the employee worked each day in the period preceding the date the employee took paid leave.

Employers must first exhaust other available sick leave and PTO, when applicable, before using this leave program.

Leave is paid at a rate of $10.75/hour.

A qualifying event includes:

  • The worker is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  • The worker is advised by a health care official or provider to self-quarantine or self-isolate due to concerns related to or a positive diagnosis of COVID-19;
  • The worker is prohibited from working due to health concerns related to the potential transmission of COVID-19; or
  • The worker is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis.

The leave will be funded, in part, by a $3,000,000 state fund, titled the “Washington COVID-19 Food Production Paid Leave Program,” but there is nothing in the Proclamation that speaks to how employers will access these funds to offset the costs of providing this paid leave. According to Governor Inslee’s news release, further details of the reimbursement program will be issued by Washington’s Department of Commerce within the coming days.

The proclamation bars an employer from taking any retaliatory or adverse employment action against a worker for exercising his or her rights under this new program.