Oregon employers must prepare for statewide paid sick leave law

by Cal Keith

Paid sick leave will be the law in Oregon as of January 1, 2016, now that Governor Kate Brown has signed legislation passed by the state legislature in mid-June.

The statewide law mostly mirrors Portland’s sick leave law, which took effect January 1, 2014. It provides that covered employers must allow employees to accrue up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. Employees may carry over up to 40 hours of paid sick time to the next year, but they can use only 40 hours in any one year.

The law also provides that covered employers may agree with their employees to cash out unused paid sick time at the end of the year as long as they immediately credit affected employees 40 hours of paid sick leave at the beginning of the next year.

The law will have notice and posting requirements similar to that of Portland’s sick leave ordinance. Application of the law is to be managed by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI).

The state law covers employers with 10 or more employees working anywhere in the state. If an employer has fewer than 10 employees working in the state, it must allow 40 hours of unpaid sick time to be accrued per year at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked.

The state law grandfathers Portland’s application of its sick leave law to Portland employers with six or more employees. The state law says that any employer maintaining an office, store, restaurant, or establishment in a city with a population exceeding 500,000—meaning only Portland—will have to offer paid sick time if it employs at least six employees. Portland employers with fewer than six workers still must provide unpaid sick leave.

The new law also provides broader coverage than Portland’s sick leave law and expands paid sick leave to cover any purpose provided for under Oregon’s family leave law. That includes parental leave and bereavement leave.

The state law preempts any local or city sick leave law except to the limited extent that it provides for paid sick leave for Portland employers with six or more employees. In July 2014, the city of Eugene passed a paid sick leave law that was to take effect July 1, 2015. The city decided to delay implementation until January 1, 2016, and will repeal the law now that the state law has been signed.

More information on Oregon’s new paid sick leave law will be available in the July 2015 issue of Oregon Employment Law Letter. Cal Keith is the senior editor of the newsletter and an attorney with Perkins Coie LLP in Portland. He can be reached at ckeith@perkinscoie.com.