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I have not laid off any employees, yet their hours have been significantly cut. What are their options?

The Shared Work program with ESD was designed to help employees in this exact situation. This program has to be initiated by the employer and allows employees to earn wages from the employer and receive a partial benefit payment from unemployment insurance.

This program was also extended by Congress on Friday, March 27th, and will include a waiver of the 7 day waiting period.

For more information click here.

Do employers have to pay tipped employees benefits based on their tipped or non-tipped wages?

That depends on the benefit, Paid Sick and Safe Leave (State and Local) is calculated based on the employee’s base wages, not including tips.

  • Unemployment Insurance benefits are calculated based on reported tips.
  • Workers Compensation is also calculated based on reported tips.
  • Paid Family and Medical Leave is calculated based on base wages.

Is it legally required to pay hazard pay to your employees during a pandemic?

No, there is no requirement for hazard pay. If your employees feel uncertain about the best practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we offer ServSafe training, here are two free ServSafe videos related to COVID-19.

Are there any Unemployment Insurance options for Corporate Officers?

As the law is written today, corporate officers can not draw UI benefits, unless the company is disolved. There are UI relief packages being worked on, and this question is a part of those conversations. Please check our Coronavirus Resource Guide for updates.

Are there any plans to support owners who don’t have access to any Unemployment Insurance benefits?

There are UI relief packages being worked on, and this question is a part of those conversations. Please check our Coronavirus Resource Guide for updates.

I see that ESD has extended standby from 8 weeks up to 12 weeks, how do I ensure that I get the 12 weeks?

You would need to update your claim with ESD, at this time we do not anticipate the governor will extend his order beyond 12 weeks. The most recent order, as of March 23rd 2020, runs through April 6th, 2020.

Updated April 6, 2020: Inslee extends ‘Stay Home, Stay Healthy’ through May 4

What are the reporting requirements for Seattle Sick time?

Here is a good document that describes the requirements in the city of Seattle for Sick time. Note that the requirements around reporting/notice have not changed since this became law in 2015. https://www.seattle.gov/Documents/Departments/LaborStandards/Final%20PSST%20Requirements%20Chart.pdf

I’m having a hard time getting through to ESD, what should I do?

ESD is overwhelmed with claims right now. However, there are a couple of options.

The first is to file an appeal to the decision – https://esd.wa.gov/unemployment/benefit-denials-and-appeals

The second is to schedule ESD to call you, which you can do here – https://esd.wa.gov/unemployment/UI-callback

Can employees collect PSST if they are on unemployment?

No, if an employee is laid off they can no longer take PSST because they are no longer employed.

Can an employee who chooses not to work due to fear of the virus still collect unemployment?

Unemployment benefits are not available to employees who “voluntarily quit” employment, unless a reason for “good cause” can be established. Further, in order to be eligible for benefits you must be willing and able to work. ESD has adopted emergency rules, and the exception to this is if the employee receives a “request from a a medical professional, local health official or the Secretary or Health to be isolated or quarantined as a consequence of COVID-19, even if they have not been diagnosed with COVID-19”

If an employee chooses not to work, but has not been asked to quarantine or isolate, that is their choice to voluntarily quit, and as such will no longer be eligible for benefits.

If the employer has applied for Shared work program and listed employees, does the employee also apply?

According to the Employment Security Department, the employee should apply for unemployment and standby status.

What if I am temporarily laid off work because of COVID-19?

If you are temporarily laid off work you should file for unemployment benefits and apply for standby status (full-time or part-time), you may receive an automated notice indicating your request is denied. Do not worry, that notice does not reflect the emergency rules. We are in the process of updating our computer system. Once that is complete we will be reviewing all standby denials from March 8 forward to determine if they meet the new standby criteria. If your request is approved, you will receive another letter informing you of the approval. Continue to file weekly claims during this time. Do not call the claims center.

https://esd.wa.gov/standby-auto-denial-letters

Unemployment Denied. I have 2 multi-unit members now that have voiced their concerns about their unemployment for their employees being denied. They are very concerned because their servers have no money. What steps do they need to take to resolve this?

They need to follow the steps outlined in their denial letter to appeal the decision. Please note if this is regarding standby, everyone will get a denial record if they are part time hourly. They extended the benefits to part time, but are not able to update their system this quickly. Everyone gets initially denied, then the department will contact you again.

Can I give a non taxable draw now then when back give a bonus of the advance and taxes?

Unfortunately, any wages paid to the employee will be deducted from the employee’s benefit amount. 

One option you may want to consider is the SharedWork program. This program is designed for employees who have their hours significantly cut. This allows you to pay your employee wages, and they can file for UI benefits for the lost wages. While this won’t keep an employee 100% whole, it will allow them to opportunity to earn more than under a full layoff. 

Additionally, under the CARES act passed by Congress last week, eligible employees using unemployment benefits may now receive $600 more per week. It will take ESD a few weeks to update their system and implement this benefit.

Stimulus package, the additional $600 per week unemployment. Most hourly employees will make more than their regular paychecks. It wouldn’t make sense for someone to get off unemployment if this was the case. How will this work?

As of 3/30, the Employment Security Department is working on guidance on how the extended benefit will be applied, and how it will interact with state expanded benefits. However, the loosening of certain requirements do not apply to “essential critical infrastructure workers”, which includes our industry’s employees. 

Once you reopen, the employee’s “standby” status would change and they would be required to report for work. 

For the latest information from ESD, follow this link: https://esd.wa.gov/newsroom/covid-19

If I place my employee(s) on standby, and I do not bring them back within the standby period, what are the repercussions?

If you need to take more time before you can bring your employee(s) back, you simply need to let ESD know. The program has been extended to 12 weeks, and can be extended further on a case by case basis.

If you are unable to bring employees back, and have to do a permanent layoff, there is no penalty to employers – with the exception that the permanent layoff will impact your experience rating.

If I place an employee on standby will it affect my experience rating?

No – the relief the legislature passed on the last day of session (at the request of the hospitality association) included $25 million to pay off the experience rating cost.

What should I do if an employee becomes sick?

If an employee becomes sick, they should be sent home. They are able to use their Paid Sick and Safe Leave. If a doctor certifies their condition they may apply for paid family and medical leave. They are also entitled to Unemployment Insurance benefits if they are unable to work if required to quarantine. They may not receive both Unemployment Insurance and Paid Family Medical Leave at the same time.

I have multiple units, my employees have been denied unemployment. What steps do I need to take to resolve this?

They need to follow the steps outlined in their denial letter to appeal the decision. Please note if this is regarding standby, everyone will get a denial record if they are part time hourly. They extended the benefits to part time, but are not able to update their system this quickly. Everyone gets initially denied, then the department will contact you again.

Does the SEAP program through ESD work for our existing small business operators?

You can find more information here: https://www.esd.wa.gov/jobs-and-training/self-employment-assistance-program

In order to qualify for SEAP, you must be eligible for unemployment benefits. Unfortunately this in not for workers or business owners who are looking for an option because they do not currently meet eligibility requirements.

Unemployment Eligibility rolls on a benefit year

If an employee has exhausted their unemployment and hasn’t qualified for a new benefit year, will there be any benefits available to them if they were working and laid off ?

For example, an employee started their claim in June 2019 and used it all up. Will there be an exception made for them to the benefit year rule?

Is an employee with a green card eligible for unemployment benefits?

Green card holders are eligible.