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AGO 1953 No. 86 - July 13, 1953
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

VACATIONS ‑- PAID ANNUAL LEAVE OF STATE EMPLOYEES

The statute contemplates fourteen calendar days' vacation with pay.

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                                                                    July 13, 1953

Honorable Neil J. Hoff
State Senator
Rust Building
Tacoma 2, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 86

Dear Sir:

            By letter as previously acknowledged you have requested the opinion of this office on a question arising under the state employees' leave statute, RCW 43.01.040, as follows:

            Is a state employee entitled to fourteen working or fourteen calendar days leave with pay each year?

            We conclude that the statute contemplates calendar days.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 43.01.040 (RRS 10891) provides:

            "Each subordinate officer and employee of the several offices, departments, and institutions of the state government shall be entitled, during each twelve months' period, to fourteen days' leave of absence with full pay."

            This law was enacted originally as sec. 133, chapter 7, Laws of 1921, and remains unchanged to the present time.  It has been construed by the Supreme Court only once, in a decision irrelevant to any of the questions now raised; State ex rel. Bonsall v. Case, 172 Wash. 243.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            The opinions of this office are in conflict concerning your inquiry.  We have stated that the statute provided for fourteen calendar days, or two weeks; Opinion to Director of Efficiency, February 16, 1929; Opinion to Governor, June 17, 1933.  Without overruling those opinions, we advised the Director of Finance, Budget and Business on April 27, 1942, that the law specified working days, giving as a rationale the fact that the legislature did not say "calendar" days and hence must have meant working days.  This reasoning could have been applied to the opposite result with equal facility.

            A statute will be construed in the light of its purpose, and words will be given their ordinary meaning unless clearly employed as terms of art.

            The purpose of the statute is to guarantee vacations to state employees.  A vacation is a period of rest or relief from active service.  It is common knowledge that vacations are usually granted in regular periods of weeks or months, especially where the grant is of such broad application.

            We have found no statute controlling the hours of state offices prior to Rem. Supp. (1941) sec. 9963-1, but we may assume that state offices were closed on Sunday in 1921.  If the statute posts working days to the exclusion of Sundays, an employee could leave as of Monday in week No. 1 and return on Wednesday of week No. 3.  Thus translated, the result would be a granted two and one‑third work weeks.  RCW 42.04.060 provides today that most state offices may be closed on Saturdays, resulting in a grant of two and four-fifths work weeks.  We do not think the legislature so intended.

            Of further assistance is the rule that the legislature may be considered to have acquiesced in long-standing administrative construction of a statute.  Smith v. Northern Pacific Railway Co., 7 Wn. (2d) 652; State ex rel. Taylor v. Superior Court, 2 Wn. (2d) 575.  The practice for some years has been to grant vacations of two calendar weeks.  For all departments and agencies whose heads are appointed by the Governor, it has been crystallized by Executive Bulletin dated April 1, 1951, which contains the following:

            "Section 6. Annual Leave with Pay:  (a) Annual leave with pay shall be allowed to each full-time employee at the rate of two (2) work weeks for each twelve (12) months of service, or aliquot part thereof."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            It may of course be argued that the word "absence" in the statute necessarily implies working days, since employees need not be present on non-business days; or that the words "full pay" imply working days because one is theoretically not paid for non-working days.  But if "vacation," synonymous in the context, is substituted for "leave of absence" these refinements lose most of their meaning.  As a practical matter, we think the legislature intended to provide two weeks vacation, in accordance with the general practice.  See for exampleNicholson v. Amar, 7 Cal. App. (2d) 290, 45 P. (2d) 697.

            We conclude that the statute contemplates fourteen calendar days' vacation with pay; and the cited opinion to the Director of Finance, Budget and Business, insofar as it holds to the contrary, is hereby overruled.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

A. J. HUTTON, JR.
Assistant Attorney General

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