Effective January 1, 2020, the Seattle Commuter Benefits Ordinance will require certain employers to offer commuter benefits to eligible Seattle employees. The Seattle Office of Labor Standards (OLS) is charged with implementing and enforcing the Ordinance.

Who does the law apply to?

The law applies to employers who have 20 or more employees worldwide, including full-time, part-time, seasonal, and temporary employees.

When must employers comply?

An employer who had an average of 20 employees in the prior year, must start offering commuter benefits to their eligible employees the following year.

New employers that did not have any employees working the prior year will be subject to the Ordinance if they had an average of 20 or more employees in their first 90 days of business. If an employer’s annual average number of employees falls below 20, the employer does not need to offer commuter benefits the following year.

Which employees are eligible?

Covered employers must offer commuter benefits to employees that work at least 10 hours per week in Seattle. Covered employers must offer eligible employees the following benefits:

(1) The option to make pre-tax deductions for transit expenses up to the amount allowed by federal law (2019 federal limits:   $265/month for parking, $265/month for transit/vanpool); or

(2) A fully or partially subsidized transit pass.

When do employees become eligible?

Covered employers must offer eligible employees commuter benefits within 60 days of their date of hire. After an employee makes a benefit election, the employer must provide the deduction within 30 calendar days.

Additional employer requirements:

In addition to offering benefits, employers must adhere to recordkeeping and notice requirements under the Ordinance. Employers are required to keep documents that exhibit compliance, including written documentation that the employer offered commuter benefits to their employees. Employers must keep these records for at least 3 years.

Starting in January 1, 2020, employers must also display a poster that gives employees notice of their rights to commuter benefits. The notice must be displayed in English and any primary languages of the employees. OLS will make this poster available to employers in late 2019.

Penalty Information:

OLS will not enforce the Ordinance until January 1, 2021. After January 1, 2021, OLS will begin accepting complaints about any violations. OLS will give employers 90 days to “cure” the violation and become compliant. OLS plans on drafting additional administrative and enforcement rules in 2019 before the Ordinance goes into effect.


Seattle Office of Labor Standards Commuter Benefits Ordinance

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Emerald Law– Emerald is a Client Compliance Consultant for Sequoia, where she works with our clients to optimize and streamline benefits compliance. In her free time, Emerald enjoys stand up comedy, live music and writing non-fiction.