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Washington state expected to implement paid leave

OLYMPIA Wash. State lawmakers have yet to determine how much restaurateurs and other employers might pay for the new paid-leave legislation that is widely expected to be signed into law by Gov. Christine Gregoire.

The measure would require companies with 25 or more employees as of October 2009 to provide staffers with up to five weeks of paid leave following the birth or adoption of a child. The employees would collect $250 a week, presumably from the state. Qualifying businesses would have to allow returning employees to resume their jobs.

Earlier versions of the bill called for employers to fund the state-administered benefit's cost by paying 2 cents per employee for every hour they worked. The employer could deduct that money from the employees' paychecks.

The version approved Sunday by Washington's senate in a 26-22 vote does not specify how the benefit will be funded. Rather, it calls for the organization of a task force in January to prescribe the funding. The bill was consistent with a measure passed earlier in the House.

The measure parallels a law enacted in 2004 in California. Employees there can collect up to $882 a week for six weeks to care for an ill relative.

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