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Employee Discipline: Washington

Employee Discipline requirements for other states

Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.

Author: Michael Brunet, Garvey Schubert Barer


  • Washington has strict antidiscrimination and retaliation laws that should be considered before any employee discipline. See Risks in Disciplining Employees.
  • Washington employers may conduct drug and alcohol screening, including for medical marijuana, but should take care to conduct screening and discipline in an even-handed and nondiscriminatory manner. See Investigation Tools and Risks.
  • Washington employers are prohibited from requiring employees or applicants to take a lie detector or similar test. See Integrity Tests.
  • Washington employers may discipline employees for criminal convictions, but are at risk if the convictions are unrelated to the essential duties of the employee's position. See Criminal Convictions.
  • Washington employers using consumer reports must adhere to the state Fair Credit Reporting Act. See Consumer Reports.
  • Washington employers may require employee driving records. See Driving Records.
  • Washington employers wishing to review employee email or voicemail as part of an investigation must notify employees that use of employer email and voicemail is not private, or may face charges of violating Washington's wiretapping law. See Privacy Concerns.
  • Washington laws address smoking and e-cigarette use in the workplace. See E-Cigarettes and Tobacco Use.
  • Washington law protects employee inventions under certain circumstances. See Employee Inventions.
  • Washington recognizes an employee's fiduciary duty of loyalty to the employer, which exists whether or not the employee has an employment agreement that includes a restrictive covenant. See Employee Duty of Loyalty.
  • Records regarding employee discipline should be kept for three years. See Records Issues.
  • Participation or nonparticipation in an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) must not be a factor in discipline decisions. See Discipline Protections for EAP-Related Information.
  • Localities including King County, Seattle, SeaTac and Tacoma have requirements pertaining to employee discipline. See Local Requirements.