Workers

Information about unemployment, workers rights, how to advocate for yourself, and protecting yourself from exposure. Find agencies supporting loss of work, employment status changes, and employee protection.

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There is a high volume of fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits. If you think someone is using your information to claim unemployment, report it.
A collection of information for employers and workers in the agriculture industry.

Safe Start plans and guidance for reopening

Visit our Safe Start page for more information about the governor’s phased reopening plan. That page also includes industry-specific guidance for safe reopening.

Under the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” proclamation, employers are required to implement a social distancing plan, conduct frequent cleaning and sanitizing, and ensure frequent and proper hand washing.

Businesses are prohibited from operating unless these workplace safety measures are established and implemented in accordance with the following guidance:

Unemployment benefits

The new federal CARES act means unemployment benefits may be available to those impacted by COVID-19 related changes in employment. The state Employment Security Department (ESD) has provided a 4 step process to help ensure unemployment benefits are filed correctly and start quickly.

Unemployment benefits fraud

Washington state takes unemployment insurance fraud very seriously. If you have reason to believe someone has applied for unemployment benefits using your information or used a scam to obtain your private information, please report it. The fraud-reporting contacts listed are for Washington state only

Questions about returning to work?

There is important information to know about unemployment as our economy beings to re-open. The state Employment Security Department has developed frequently asked questions about returning to work for employers and workers.

Employers are directed to use all available options as employees return to work under the governor’s “safe start” plan. Employees who do not believe it is safe to work due to the risk of COVID-19 exposure may have access to financial support. These programs include expanded family and medical leave included in the Families First Coronavirus Response Actunemployment benefitspaid sick leave or other paid time off, depending on individual circumstances.

WorkSource Washington is a powerful job-match site for workers searching for the right opportunity. Job seekers can use advanced search tools to browse thousands of openings. The site also catalogs trainings, hiring events, and other career tools.

Workers concerned about workplace conditions have options to report

Workers are encouraged to engage employers directly to resolve any identified safety concerns. To report safety violations, workers have two options: 

Workers are protected from discrimination for raising safety complaints

Workers in Washington who refuse to perform unsafe job duties may be protected from discrimination under Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act (WISHA) requirements as administered through the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I). 

Workers who are retaliated against for filing a complaint, or for bringing up safety concerns to their employer, may file a complaint (pdf). 

Individuals unable to work due to COVID-19 risk may qualify for Unemployment Insurance support

A worker may file an unemployment claim at the same time they initiate a discrimination action with Labor and Industries (L&I). Unemployment claims are addressed on a case-by-case basis.  Nonetheless, the following scenarios can be a useful guide: 

ALLOWABLE 

  • An individual working at a worksite that does not follow guidelines published by the U.S. Department of Labor and Washington State Department of Health and who is unable to telework.
  • An individual at high-risk for severe illness, in the same household as a person identified as high-risk or providing direct care for a person identified as high-risk who is therefore unable to work and is unable to telework.
  • An individual must stay home to care for a young child because school or daycare is closed.

NOT ALLOWABLE 

  • An individual that quits work for an essential employer maintaining a worksite that does meet guidelines published by the U.S. Department of Labor and Washington State Department of Health.

Note: Per federal guidance, quitting work without good cause to obtain unemployment benefits is fraud. 

The Employment Security Department (ESD) has resources to help with frequently asked questions related to emergency rules and COVID-19 related claims

Unemployment claims may be filed online or by phone at 800-318-6022. 

Work based exposures and illness may be eligible for Workers Compensation

Under certain circumstances, claims from health care workers and first responders for exposure to coronavirus will be allowed. Other claims that meet certain criteria for exposure will be considered on a case-by-case basis. For a claim to be accepted, there must be a documented or probable work-related exposure, and an employee/employer relationship. 

L&I has answers to commonly asked questions online.

Follow lni.wa.govesd.wa.gov, and coronavirus.wa.gov for the most up-to-date information. 

High-risk Workers are afforded expanded protection

The Governor issued Proclamation 20-46 (pdf) that requires employers to offer high-risk employees, as defined by the CDC, alternative work assignments, including telework, alternative, or remote work locations, and if an alternative assignment is not feasible, retain the position of the high risk worker. The proclamation expires June 12, 2020, unless otherwise extended.

Frequently Asked Questions for Workers

View the most frequently asked questions regarding employment.

Employee rights FAQs

Employees have protections relevant to COVID-19 state proclamations. Find out what protections exist for workers of essential and non-essential employers.

FAQs

No, there are no exclusions. If an employee is at high-risk, as defined by the CDC, the employer is required to accommodate them.

If an employee is requesting accommodation due to being in a high-risk group, and they provide sufficient facts to support the request, the employer must provide the accommodation.  

Because of the risk of potential “regarded as disability” discrimination and age discrimination claims, it is recommended to communicate to all employees about the proclamation rather than to reach out directly to specific employees who have not asked for accommodation. 

No. This Proclamation explicitly states that employees “must have access to accommodations to prevent greater risk of contracting COVID-19, and these decisions cannot be left solely to the employer.”

In this case, you can follow your agency or institution’s leave policies; however, we are encouraging that employers be flexible with employees at this time. Also, because this proclamation gives discretion to employees about how best to remain safe, if you are considering denying leave to a high-risk individual who is requesting leave based on the Proclamation, it is advised to check with State HR and your AAG.