Employment legislation has mixed outcomes

Mar 17, 2022
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Written by Washington Retail
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Unfortunately, the 2022 Legislative Session will be known as the session of missed opportunities.

With all the challenges of the 2022 session, many of the employment-related outcomes were positive for retailers in Washington State.

Some of the most significant outcomes include:

    • Additional relief in unemployment insurance taxes by reducing the social tax element of unemployment insurance premiums by about a third for 2022 and 2023. Over the last two sessions, the Legislature has relieved employers of most, but not all, COVID-related unemployment insurance costs (SB 5873).
    • 18-month delay in implementation of Washington’s Long Term Care program and the payroll tax required to fund the program. The program, originally scheduled to go into effect in January, will now undergo legislative and actuarial review leading into the 2023 session of the Legislature (HB 1732 & HB 1733).
    • Authorization for the Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board to work with the Retail sector to identify and implement strategies to increase education and training for retail workers (HB 2019).
    • Authorization of independent actuarial reviews, audits, and legislative oversight of Washington’s Paid Family and Medical Leave program. Early in the session, it was revealed that the PFML program was at risk of insolvency and required a “backfill” of general fund resources to avert insolvency (SB 5649).
    • New requirements for providing access to restrooms for delivery drivers were amended to prevent duplication with current requirements for retail businesses (HB 1706).

Several proposals that would have added new costs and requirements on retailers were defeated.

These include:

    • Adding new unemployment insurance benefits for those who voluntarily quit their jobs (HB 1486)
    • New requirements for audio or videotaping of independent medical examinations (HB 1763 & SB 5627).
    • Repealing the prohibition on regulating ergonomics in the workplace (HB 1837).
    • Imposing new requirements on quotas and safety in warehouses (SB 5891).
    • Requiring attorney fees and costs for appeals of workers compensation claims to be borne by retrospective rating and state fund employers (SB 5801).
    • Adding medical and leave information to personnel files and imposing a new private right of action for failure to produce personnel records in a timely manner (SB 5130).

Two bills of concern passed the Legislature:

    • Adding harassment, discrimination, and wage/hour violations to the items prohibited from being included in non-disclosure agreements. Washington Retail Association did not object to adding harassment and discrimination to the list of prohibited items; however, the legislation went further by adding a new private right of action (HB 1795).
    • Requiring employers to disclose salary and benefit information with postings for new positions. Current law requires disclosure of general salary and benefit information at the time a position is being offered. The Washington Retail Association successfully amended the bill to “wage range and a general description of benefits” and delayed implementation until January of 2023 to allow for a stakeholder process to develop guidance (SB 5761).