Oregon recently passed a new law that will require most employers with 10 or more employees to provide paid sick time. Oregon is the fourth state to adopt a paid sick leave law, following Connecticut, California, and Massachusetts.

Some Key Provisions of the Passed Bill:

  • Effective January 1, 2016, employers with 10 or more employees working in Oregon must provide up to 40 hours of paid sick time per year. Employer with fewer than 10 employees working in Oregon must provide up to 40 hours of unpaid sick time per year (except in Portland, Oregon).
  • In Portland (where the Portland Sick Leave Ordinance has been in effect since 2014), employers with at least six employees working in Oregon are required to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave. Portland employers with fewer than six employees working in the state must provide up to 40 hours of unpaid sick leave.
  • Independent contractors, individuals who receive paid sick time under federal law, participants of certain work training or work study programs, certain railroad workers, individuals who are employed by his or her parent, spouse, or child, and certain employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement are excluded from the definition of “employee” and thus are not covered by the law.
  • Employees are entitled to accrue one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours of sick time per year. Exempt employees are deemed to work 40 hours per week for purposes of calculating sick leave accrual, unless their actual workweek is less than 40 hours, in which case sick leave accrual is based upon their actual workweek.
  • Employees generally must be permitted to carryover up to 40 hours of unused sick time from one year to the next year, subject to certain limitations.
  • Employees hired after the law’s effective date will begin accruing sick leave on the first day of employment, but employers may prohibit the use of accrued sick time until the 91st calendar day of employment. Current employees may use sick leave as it is accrued after the law’s effective date.
  • Employees may use sick for the following purposes: (i) to care for the employee’s or employee’s family member’s mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, need for medical diagnosis or treatment, or need for preventative medical care; (ii) for purposes allowed under the Oregon Family Leave Act; (iii) for purposes allowed under the Oregon Victims of Certain Crimes Act (which provides leave to eligible employees who are a victim of domestic violence, harassment, sexual assault, or stalking, or who have a family member who has been a victim of such a crime); (iv) to donate sick time to another employee, if allowed by the employer; and (v) in the event of certain specified public health emergencies.
  • Employees may be required to comply with the employer’s customary notice and procedural requirements for absences or requesting time off, provided that those requirements do not interfere with the employee’s ability to use sick leave. Employees must make a “reasonable attempt” to schedule the use of sick time in a manner that does not unduly disrupt the operations of the employer. If the need to use sick leave is foreseeable, the employer may require reasonable advanced notice of the need to take sick leave, but may not require advanced notice of more than 10 days before the sick leave is scheduled to commence. If the need to use sick leave is unforeseeable, the employee must provide notice as soon as practicable.
  • Employees generally must be allowed to use sick leave in hourly increments, although employers may be permitted to establish a larger minimum use increment in certain circumstances.
  • If an employee takes more than three consecutive workdays of sick time, the employer may require that the employee provide medical verification of the need for sick time. If the need for sick time is foreseeable and is projected to last more than three scheduled workdays, the employer may require the employee to provide verification before the sick time commences or as soon as otherwise practicable. Employers also may request verification if sick leave abuse is suspected, regardless of whether the employee has used more than three days of sick time. The employer is required to pay any reasonable costs associated with medical verification.
  • Employers must give employees written notice of the law’s requirements. The Oregon Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor, which has been tasked with implementing and enforcing the law, will specify the requirements of the written notice. Employers also must provide written notification, on at least a quarterly basis, to each employee of the amount of accrued sick time he or she has available for use. The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries will prepare templates notices. These notices also must be provided in the language that the employer typically uses to communicate with the employee.
  • The law expressly preempts all local sick leave laws, including the ordinances passed in Portland and Eugene.

Oregon employers should review their current sick leave policies and practices and update them in compliance with the requirements of the new law. Preexisting policies (such as sick leave, vacation day, or similar paid time off (“PTO”) policies) that are “substantially equivalent to” or more generous than the requirements of the Oregon law can satisfy the new law; however, employers should confirm with counsel that these policies are in compliance because the requirements of the new law may be more expansive than existing policies. Oregon employers also should be on the lookout for regulations and other interpretive guidance related to the new law.