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January 13, 2020

Seattle Mandates Commuter Benefits

Beginning January 1, 2020, Seattle employers with twenty or more employees worldwide must provide transit benefits to their Seattle employees.

Employers subject to ordinance if they employ twenty or more employees worldwide, including part-time, seasonal, and temporary employees. Tax-exempt organizations and government agencies are excluded from the requirement.

An eligible employee is one who works an average of ten hours or more per week in Seattle in the previous calendar month. 

Types of transit benefits.  Employers must provide the benefit by either:

  1.  Offer a pre-tax election option for transit or vanpool expenses (up to $270 per month, indexed for 2020).  Employers need to make the offer of the pre-tax benefits in writing and within 60 calendar days of an employee commencing employment. Employers are strongly encouraged to provide this offer in the employee’s primary language.
  2. Provide a partially or fully subsidized transit pass. A fully subsidized transit pass must cover the fares for King County Metro and Sound Transit Link Light Rail service. An employer may satisfy the requirements for a partially subsidized transit pass by either:
  • Providing a transit pass with a monthly subsidy amount that is equal to or greater than 30% of a retail monthly transit pass that will cover fares for King County Metro and Sound Transit Link Light Rail service; or,
  • Providing a transit pass through the ORCA Business Passport program, or substantially similar program offered by a local transit agency, with an employer contribution of at least 50% of a transit pass.

Notice requirement.  Employers are required to display a workplace poster in a conspicuous and accessible place at any workplace or job site where any of their employees work.  The workplace posting must be displayed in English, and in the primary language(s) of the employee(s) at the particular workplace.  The Seattle Office of Labor Standards is charged with developing a model workplace poster for an employer’s use.

Enforcement.  The Seattle Office of Labor Standards (OLS) administers and enforces the ordinance.  However, the OLS will not begin enforcement until January 1, 2021.

Additional information.  The OLS provides additional information regarding the commuter benefits ordinance on its website, including proposed rules and FAQs.


The information contained in this article is provided as general guidance and may be affected by changes in law or regulation. This article is not intended to replace or substitute for accounting or other professional advice. Please consult a CBIZ professional. This information is provided as-is with no warranties of any kind. CBIZ shall not be liable for any damages whatsoever in connection with its use and assumes no obligation to inform the reader of any changes in laws or other factors that could affect the information contained herein.

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