A Leader in Family Leave & Workplace Compassion: The State of Oregon

In 2013, the state of Oregon became the first state to require bereavement leave. The law has now been effective for just over two years and indeed was revolutionary as it required certain private sector employers to provide bereavement leave to their covered employees. This requirement amended the Oregon Family Leave Act and applies to employers who have 25 or more employees. Ultimately, this development was groundbreaking for many reasons—never before had a state gone as far in requiring employers to offer paid time off to a grieving employee. And while the policy did only cover three days with pay and the ability to petition up to 12 weeks without pay—it’s a step in the right direction.

New Developments in the Beaver State

Progress continued to be made in the Beaver State in 2015, especially as it relates to addressing the needs of employees dealing with illness, loss, and other medical issues within their families.

On June 22, 2015, Oregon became the fourth state to enact a statewide mandatory paid sick leave law. Following in the footsteps of California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, the law went into effect on January 1, 2016, and requires Oregon employers to provide up to 40 hours of sick leave to employees—and in most cases, this leave time must be paid. Furthermore, almost every employer with workers in Oregon will feel the effects of this law as it applies to employers with 10 or more employees (six or more for employers in Portland). However, smaller employers are not excluded. Employers with under 10 employees are required to provide employees with 40 hours of sick leave as well—but this can be unpaid.

Who is Excluded?

As stated, the law is far-reaching, but employers who already provide their employees paid time off under a PTO, vacation, or other paid leave policy are not required to provide additional sick time under this law, so long as they allow an employee to use at least 40 hours of leave per year for purposes covered under the law and meet minimum requirements.

What Can Employees Use Sick Time For?

No matter if the sick time is paid or unpaid, an employee in Oregon can use their sick time in the following ways:

  • For personal illness, injury, or other health condition—this includes time off for medical diagnosis, care, treatment, and preventative care;
  • To care for a family member suffering from illness, injury, or other health condition—it includes spouses, parents, parents-in-law, children, grandparents, and grandchildren;
  • For any purposes allowed under OFLA, such as bereavement leave—ultimately, this extends the initial 2013 OFLA amendment, giving an employee more time off when facing a grieving situation;
  • For any purpose allowed under Oregon’s domestic violence, harassment, sexual assault, or stalking law;
  • To donate accrued sick time to another employee, who then may use it for any previously stated condition, including bereavement leave (however, one caveat here is that the employer must have a written policy allowing the donation of accrued sick time to co-workers);
  • In the event of a public health emergency.

What’s Next?

As this law went into effect at the dawning of the New Year, and Oregon employees began accruing as of that date, it’s still a good idea for any employer to review their sick, PTO, vacation, and other supporting workplace policies. We have found that many employers, in Oregon as well as all over the United States, benefit greatly by scheduling an annual review of these policies they look to support their employees during times of hardship or personal stress. Our team has the capability of helping your company develop policies that are compassionate and address the needs of your staff during good times—as well as bad.

We are definitely feeling positive about what the workplaces of the future are going to look like—especially in light of this historic expansion of a compassionate, family-oriented policy in Oregon. There is little doubt that we will start to see more of these state-level policies across the United States. However, remember, as a leader, you don’t have to wait for a change in the law to address the needs of your business and employees or to help an employee or company leader who is facing personal challenges that are impacting their professional life. Contact us today to learn how we can help you institute policies that retain your employees and promote their health and longevity. Visit www.bltstrategies.com right now.

Mary Ellen Wasielewski