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Employee Access to Personnel Files

Personnel files, also known as employee files, are business records that may include records related to an employee’s job performance, salary, and other employment matters. From time to time, an employer may receive a request from current or former employee to review their personnel file.

Employers are required to permit current and former employees to inspect their own personnel file at least annually, but an employer may refuse to permit access to certain records. For instance, employers are not required to allow employees access to… Continue reading

Paid Family Medical Leave coming to Washington

Paid sick leave and paid family medical leave are two recent, big developments in Washington employment law. (Read more about paid sick leave here ) On January 1, 2019, premium assessments will begin for the new Paid Family Medical Leave (PFML) system managed by Employment Security Department (ESD). The family leave portion will be funded by employees (via payroll deductions) unless an employer elects to pay some or all these premiums. The medical leave portion will be funded by employees and employers.

Benefits will be… Continue reading

New Paid Sick Leave

On January 1, 2018, Washington’s paid sick leave law went into effect. The paid sick leave law requires employers to notify, in written or electronic form, each employee of:

●     Their entitlement to paid sick leave;

●     The rate at which the employee will accrue paid sick leave;

●     The authorized purposes for which paid sick leave may be used; and

●     That retaliation by the employer for the… Continue reading

Why Withholding Wages is a Costly, Bad Idea

Wages are simply the compensation due to an employee by reason of employment.[i] This includes hourly wages and salary, but also includes commissions and deferred compensation/pensions. Basically, all work must be paid for with limited exceptions.

It is against the law to withhold or divert any portion of an employee’s wages (unless required by state or federal law, specifically agreed to by the employee and employer, or for medical care pursuant to a rule or regulation).[ii] Willful withholding of wages is a crime,… Continue reading

Is That Independent Contractor Really Your Employee?

One of the biggest sources of confusion I see from businesses in Whatcom County is trying to figure out the difference between independent contractors and employees. Whether someone is your employee (v. an independent contractor) can impact many aspects of your business, including minimum wage and overtime laws, employment security, worker’s compensation, and federal taxes, and potential liability for their actions.

There are a number of tests used to evaluate whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee. Some of the factors in… Continue reading

Can Employees Pick and Choose Which Bathroom to Use Under The New Gender Laws?

In Washington State, a person has the right to be free from discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sex or sexual orientation. RCW 49.60.030(1). “Sex” means gender. RCW 49.60.040(25). “”Sexual orientation” means heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, and gender expression or identity. As used in this definition, “gender expression or identity” means having or being perceived as having a gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior, or expression, whether or not that gender identity, self-image, appearance, behavior, or expression is different from that traditionally… Continue reading

Successfully Navigating Employment Tax Audits

The mere thought of an audit by the government can send shivers down the spine of business owners. In Washington, a number of different agencies can conduct audits, including the Department of Labor and Industries and the Employment Security Department. These agencies are tasked with collecting employment taxes related to our state’s workers compensation and unemployment systems.


The audits by these agencies look into whether a business has paid all employment taxes that it owes. These audits can be scary for businesses, given the… Continue reading