On June 22, 2015, Gov. Brown signed SB 454 in law, creating Chapter 537 of the 2015 Laws. The legislation makes Oregon the fourth state to require paid sick leave for employees. The legislation requires most employers with 10 or more employees in Oregon to provide employees with up to 40 hours per year of paid sick leave. The new requirement is wide-sweeping and applies to both full-time and part-time employees. There are limited exemptions, such as for independent contractors and employees who already receive paid sick leave under federal law.
Importantly, the new state law preempts local laws enacted by municipalities in Oregon, such as the City of Eugene’s sick leave ordinance which was to be effective July 1, 2015. The City of Eugene voted to repeal the sick leave ordinance upon the Governor’s signature of SB 454, so employers in Eugene need only to comply with the statewide legislation. SB 454 prohibits local governments from imposing different sick leave requirements on private employers, although the City of Portland’s existing ordinance (requiring employers with at least six employees to provide paid sick leave, and fewer than six employees to provide unpaid sick leave) will remain in effect.
Under SB 454, paid sick leave will immediately begin to accrue for current employees on Jan. 1, 2016 at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours of actual work. Employees hired after that date will begin accruing sick leave immediately upon hire, although they cannot begin using it until the 91st calendar day after they begin work. Employers are not required to pay out accrued sick leave balances upon termination of employment, but employees who are rehired may be entitled to have sick leave balances restored.
Paid sick leave may also be used for any of the following reasons:
To care for an infant or newly adopted or foster child;
To care for a child who needs home care;
To make funeral arrangements, attend the funeral or grieve for a family member who has died;
To seek legal or law enforcement assistance to ensure the health and safety of the employee or the employee’s dependent;
To obtain, or to assist a dependent in obtaining counseling from a licensed mental health professional or services from a victim service provider, or to relocate or take steps to secure an existing home because of an experience of domestic violence, harassment, sexual assault or stalking; or
To deal with situations in which the employee is excluded from the workplace for health reasons or because of the closure of the employee’s place of business, or closure of the school or place of care of the employee’s dependent, by order of a public official due to a public health emergency.
The Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries is charged with adopting rules for implementation and enforcement of the new law, so further guidance is expected. Since the law implicates non-benefits laws, such as employment and labor law, employers should work with outside counsel and closely examine their sick leave policies now to determine whether they will need to make changes prior to the law’s effective date, Jan. 1, 2016.
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City of Eugene Repeal of Paid Sick Leave Ordinance »