Oregon Joins Small Number of States Mandating Employee Sick Leave

With the passage of Senate Bill 454, effective January 1, 2016, Oregon employers will be required to provide employees with time off to care for themselves or ill family members. Employers with 10 or more employees must provide paid sick leave, while those with fewer than 10 employees must provide unpaid sick leave. Employers within the City of Portland who have 6 or more employees must provide paid leave, and unpaid leave if they have less than 6. There are limited exclusions, but most Oregon employers will be required to comply with the new law.

Under the new law, employees accrue 1 hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours of leave and leave accrues on the employee’s first day at work. Leave may be used in one hour increments beginning on the 91st day of employment and may be used for a variety of health-related purposes. Employees must follow the employer’s existing notice requirements for taking leave unless doing so would impose undue hardship on the employee. If the leave is foreseeable, employers may require up to 10 days advanced notice, and if unforeseeable, the employee must provide notice “as soon as practicable.” If an employee quits, but returns to the employer within six months, previously accrued sick leave must be restored.

Employers may require medical verification of the need for leave if an employee takes more than three consecutive work days of leave, and verification may be required prior to the leave being taken if the need is foreseeable. However, employers must pay for the medical verification and any lost wages for work time employees use to obtain verification. If an employer suspects an employee is abusing sick leave, verification may be required even if the employee has not missed three days of work.

Generally, an employer’s sick leave policy that is substantially equivalent or more generous than these requirements will satisfy the legal requirements of the new law. The law also preempts all local sick-leave mandates, except regarding the size of employers covered under Portland’s current ordinance as previously mentioned. Complaints may be filed with the Bureau of Labor and Industries, which may investigate and fine violators up to $1,000. However, penalties may be imposed only for violations after January 1, 2017. Employers who violate the law may also be sued in court.

As a result of the passage of SB 454, all Oregon employers should review and confirm their sick leave policies (or other paid or unpaid leave policies) comply with the new requirements.

If you have questions about this issue or any other employment law matter, contact Allyson S. Krueger or your regular Dunn Carney employment lawyer.