On August 4th, 2021, Seattle, Washington, announced a court settlement with a popular delivery service over paid sick leave violations. In short, Postmates has agreed to pay its Seattle workers almost $1 million over allegations that it violated city policy. Specifically, the company violated Seattle’s Gig Worker Paid Sick and Safe Time (PSST) ordinance. Comparatively, on a federal level, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) updated its paid sick leave guidance in January 2021.

Overview of the Decision

Accordingly, Seattle’s Office of Labor Standards reached the $972,075 settlement with Postmates over alleged paid sick leave violations. In this situation, 1,646 gig workers will receive $949,815.49 in back wages, interest, liquidated damages, and civil penalties. Additionally, fines and penalties totaling $22,260.40 will go to the city.

By and large, the city began investigating Postmates last fall after workers complained that the company didn’t provide required information. Markedly, Postmates failed to provide paid sick and safe time, a notice of the PSST ordinance, and their PSST balances. As a result, the company was found guilty of committing paid sick leave violations.

Seattle’s Gig Worker Paid Sick and Safe Time Ordinance (PSST)

In general, Seattle’s PSST ordinance is a temporary law that took effect July 13th, 2020. For the most part, the city created the law to protect individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most importantly, the law gives gig workers from transportation and food delivery network companies paid sick and safe time. Altogether, workers may use the time to care:

  • for themselves or a family member during periods of physical or mental need;
  • if a family member’s school or place of care is closed; or
  • if the company reduces, suspends, or discontinues operations for health or safety reasons.

 Employer Takeaways

In conclusion, although this case was specific to Seattle, all employers need to be aware of state and local paid sick leave ordinances. Additionally, many paid sick leave ordinances differ for employees, independent contractors, and gig workers. Consequently, employers should follow the regulations that apply specifically to their workers. Failure to provide the appropriate information can lead to costly paid sick leave violations.