City Council briefing on sick leave audit highlights need for community-based enforcement of $15

City Council to be briefed on auditor's review, which highlights need for proactive investigations, partnerships with community organizations, and expanded auditing power

Seattle City Councilmembers will be briefed this morning at 9:30 am in Council chambers on a new audit of Seattle's paid sick leave ordinance, which highlights the need to strengthen labor standards enforcement to ensure that our $15 minimum wage law becomes a reality for all workers.

The City Auditor extensively reviewed the implementation of Seattle's Paid Sick & Safe Time Ordinance, and found many areas lagging, including:

  • An over-reliance on the use of "advisory letters" to employers, rather than the pursuit of fines and back pay
  • Failure to seek employer-wide remedies when problems were found
  • Lack of pro-active investigation of employer compliance with the sick leave law

The city's audit further underlines the critical role community-based organizations have to play in successful outreach, monitoring, and enforcement of labor standards laws.

Working Washington strongly supports the mayor's proposal for an Office of Labor Standards. However, we have serious concerns that the budget being considered substantially underfunds the massive community outreach needed to make $15 a reality. Successful enforcement will require adequate funding of a city partnership with a community organization that establishes a clear place for workers to go where they can get information from trusted sources and address any violations of the minimum wage law or other labor standards.

Highlights of the auditor's recommendations

  • Recommendation 4: The City should consider changing its PSST Ordinance enforcement strategy to include conducting investigations without charges and using other underutilized tools in the Ordinance (e.g., monitoring agreements, conducting fact finding conferences.) to help employees recover back wages and PSST owed, correct employers’ future practices, achieve companywide full compliance, and prevent reoccurrences of noncompliance at the same company. Such change should include clarifying language in the PSST Ordinance (SMC 14.16.080.A.) to allow the enforcement agency to investigate complaints without charges and settle such complaints through a settlements process (SMC 14.16.080. E.)
  • Recommendation 6: SOCR should augment its individual complaint based approach to addressing non-compliance with a proactive random testing program.
  • Recommendation 7: The City Council should modify the PSST Ordinance to include language about maintaining complainant confidentiality and clarify that investigations can be conducted without charges. This would encourage reporting of potential noncompliance, minimize the risk of retaliation against employees, and help ensure companywide full compliance with the PSST Ordinance.
  • Recommendation 10: SOCR should link its planned outreach activities to specific outcomes or goals and consider working with organizations with greater access to difficult-to-reach populations, such as community-based organizations.
  • Recommendation 13: If the City Council anticipates requesting future compliance audits of the PSST Ordinance or other labor laws that require City enforcement, it should consider whether it wishes to include explicit language in the ordinance(s) allowing the Office of City Auditor to conduct such audits of employer records to facilitate the auditing of private businesses.


Contact: Sage Wilson, Working Washington:

Working Washington unites low-wage workers to fight for a fair economy where everyone can support themselves, afford the basics, and contribute to the economy. We launched the fast food strikes that sparked the fight for $15 in Seattle; we helped lead the successful campaign to pass $15 in SeaTac; and we work in coalition with unions, faith groups, and grassroots organizations to hold corporations & politicians accountable to community needs.