The Washington Family Care Act (WFCA) Applies to TCU/IAM Members Working in Washington State

The Washington Family Care Act (WFCA) is a “kin care” law which provides that an employee working in Washington State, who is already entitled to paid time off under a collective bargaining agreement or other policy, may use that paid time off to care for certain sick family members.  See WFCA Chapter 49.12.265 through 49.12.295 on the state website at: http://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=49.12.

Specifically, the WFCA allows an employee with available paid sick leave or other paid time off to use the employee’s choice of paid leave to care for:

1.    A sick minor child with a routine illness.
2.    A spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, parent-in-law or grandparent with a serious or emergency health condition.
3.    A sick adult child who is incapable of self-care because of a physical or mental disability.

The WFCA defines sick leave or other paid time off as “time allowed under the terms of an appropriate state law, collective bargaining agreement, or employer policy, as applicable, to an employee for illness, vacation, and personal holiday.”
An employee may not take advance leave until it has been earned.  Also, the employee taking leave under the WFCA must comply with the terms of the collective bargaining agreement or employer policy applicable to the leave, except for any terms relating to the choice of leave.

An employer may not discipline an employee for leave taken under this law.  Chapter 49.12.287 states, “An employer shall not discharge, threaten to discharge, demote, suspend, discipline, or otherwise discriminate against an employee because the employee: (1) Has exercised, or attempted to exercise, any right provided under RCW [Revised Code of Washington] 49.12.270 through 49.12.295; or (2) has filed a complaint, testified, or assisted in any proceeding under RCW 49.12.270 through 49.12.295.”

As information, several rail carriers have previously sued certain states, including California and Massachusetts, over state-mandated sick leave benefits, arguing preemption by the RLA, RUIA and ERISA.  In those cases (which are under appeal), the Courts ruled in favor of the carriers and held that the statutory text of the RUIA reflects clear congressional intent that the RUIA preempts all state law relating to sickness benefits.  In other words, those Courts found that TCU’s railroad, commuter, or other workers covered by the RUIA were not entitled to state-mandated sick leave.

However, the WFCA is different because it does not require carriers to provide additional paid leave, it simply expands what an employee’s existing, accrued leave can be used for, namely the care of family members.

Because of that distinction, at this point the rail carriers have advised they do not plan to raise preemption challenges to “kin care” laws such as the WFCA.  TCU does not have a written guarantee to that effect, but until you are advised otherwise by TCU/IAM, the benefits provided under the WFCA are considered available to all TCU members working in Washington State.

If any carrier denies your rights under the WFCA, notify your Local Chairperson immediately.