Time is running out for Oregon employers to adopt or revise their sick leave policies. The new law, which becomes effective on January 1, 2016, requires Oregon employers with even a single employee to provide sick leave benefits. Employers with 10 or more employees (or six or more employees for employers within the Portland city limits) must implement a policy that allows employees to earn and use paid sick leave. Employers outside Portland with less than 10 employees must implement an unpaid sick leave policy. The new law provides income protection to nearly all employees (full-time, part-time, temporary or seasonal status, etc.). Coverage exceptions are very limited
Key provisions of the new law include:
- Employees must accrue one hour of sick leave for each 30 hours worked, which may be used starting on January 1, 2016 or on their 91st day of employment, whichever occurs later.
- Employees must be permitted to carry over up to 40 hours of unused sick leave each year with very limited exceptions, and employers cannot cap accruals below 80 hours.
- Employees are entitled to use sick leave for a broad variety of absences, such as for their own illnesses and injuries, to care for ill or injured family members, birth/adoption or foster care placement, funeral/bereavement leave as outlined in OFLA, public health emergencies, domestic violence leave, to donate under employer donated leave policies, etc.
- Verification of the need for the absence is limited to absences of over three consecutive days or where sick leave abuse is suspected.
Employers may use existing sick leave, vacation or other PTO policies to comply, provided those policies are “substantially equivalent to” or more generous than the benefits required under the new law. However, under BOLI’S Proposed Rules, an employer’s existing sick leave, vacation or PTO policies will be considered “substantially equivalent” only if such policies comply with ALL minimum requirements of the statute.
This means that all employers must compare the accrual, usage, carryover, notice, verification and other sections of their existing policies to determine whether each of those sections provides substantially equivalent or more generous terms than those required under the new law This includes policies for employees covered by collective bargaining agreements. For the vast majority of unionized employees, the new law and “substantially equivalent” rule applies. Remember: Sick leave is a mandatory subject of bargaining. Employers are encouraged to evaluate their policies and satisfy any necessary bargaining obligations before the law becomes effective.
Contact PRH if you have any questions regarding this new law.