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Do You Have Staff? Make Sure You Know About Changes to Oregon Paid Sick Leave Law

Friday, January 15, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Brook Schales
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Do You Have Staff? Make Sure You Know About Changes to Oregon Paid Sick Leave Law
Bridghid McMonagle | OANP Board of Directors

 If you are an Oregon employer, make sure you know the changes regarding Oregon Paid Sick Leave Law that are effective January 1, 2016. You may also want to consult with an attorney to have an employee handbook crafted for your clinic. This provides employees with details regarding holiday and sick pay, expectations at the office, and many other vital operations of your clinic. I have heard of attorney's charging typically $1,500-$3,000 for this. They will often come to your clinic and review the handbook with your employess and be able to answer any questions at that time.  

The law firm that I have dealt with over the past few years was kind enough to put this article together regarding Oregon Paid Sick Leave.  Below are some highlights as well.  

Remember, even if a claim is bogus, you still have to pay to defend yourself. Please do as much as you can to protect your practice.


·      Independent contractors.  You do not have to provide sick leave to bona fide independent contractors.

·      Methods of assigning sick time. There are two methods to assign sick time.  (1) Accrual.  This is an earn-as-you-go method.  Employees accrue 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked per year (or 1 1/3 hours for every 40 hours worked per year). The downside to accrual is that the employer has to track accrual for each employee. (2) Front-load. Instead of accrual, the employer can “front-load” a minimum of 40 hours of sick time to each employee at the start of the year.  The downside is the employee is not earning the sick time as she works. The upside is the employer does not need to track accrual.

·      Year. You decide what “year” to use.  The law requires up to 40 hours of sick leave per “year.” Employers can choose calendar year, fiscal year, tax year, anniversary year, or any other consecutive 12 month period. If you decide to use any year other than a calendar year, let me know as there are a couple of special considerations.

·      No waiting periods for current employees. For existing employees hired on or before, December 31, 2015, you have to either (1)  front-load sick time  and make the time available for their use on January 1, or (2) you have to let them start to accrue sick time on January 1 and allow them to use the sick time as it accrues. In other words, no waiting periods for existing employees.

·      Waiting periods for new employees. For new employees hired on or after January 1, 2016, you can require a waiting period not to exceed 90 days.  The employee must begin to accrue sick time as of the first day of employment. The employee can begin to use accrued sick time on the 91st  calendar day. You can have shorter waiting periods; 90 days is the maximum waiting period under the law.  You are not required to have waiting periods, but you can if it makes sense for your business.

·      Carryover. If you use the accrual method, you have to let employees carry over up to 40 hours of unused, accrued sick time from one year to the next year. However, you can cap the maximum accrual to 80 hours and you can have a policy that limits employees to using no more than 40 hours per year.  Example: Employee accrues 40 hours of sick time during 2016 but does not use any of the time.  On January 1, 2017, the unused 40 hours will carry over.  Employee will continue to accrue sick time in addition to the 40 hours (you can cap the max at 80 hours.).  Even though the employee is now accruing more than 40 hours, you can have a rule that he can only use a maximum of 40 hours during the year.

·      If you use the front-load method, then you do not have carryover unused sick time. You do have to front-load on the first day of the new year.  Example:  You frontload 40 hours to employees on January 1, 2016.  On December 31, 2016, an employee has 30 hours of unused sick time.  The unused sick time is forfeited. On January 1, 2017, you front-load 40 hours of sick time to the employee.

·      Permissible uses of sick time.  See attached list, which includes the definition of family member.

·      Increments of Use. Employees must be allowed to use sick time in one hour increments.  For example, an employee could use 2 hours of sick time to cover a doctor’s appointment or 4 hours to cover a partial day absence due to illness.

·      Notice and Scheduling.  For the foreseeable use of sick time (example, scheduled doctor’s appointments), you can ask for a maximum of 10 days notice of the need for leave or as soon as reasonably practicable if the employee cannot give 10 days notice.  You can also ask employees to try to schedule foreseeable leave so that it does not unduly disrupt business operations.  For example, if Friday is your busiest day for patients, you can ask employees to try to schedule appointments for days other than Fridays.  But, if the only available appointment is on a Friday, then you have to let them use the sick time.

·      For unforeseeable use of sick time (example, employee wakes up with a stomach virus), you can ask the employee to let you know as soon as possible of the need to use sick time. 

·      Medical Verification.  You can only ask for verification if the employee has missed 4 or more consecutive scheduled days of work. Plus, you may have to pay costs for a medical verification (any doctor’s costs not covered by insurance, lost wages to the employee for time away from work to go to the doctor).

·      Notice.  Employers must provide to employees (1) written notice of the requirements of the new law. Notice can be distributed personally to each employee (hand-delivery, mail, email), posted in a conspicuous place like a breakroom, or published in an employee handbook.  (2) At least quarterly, a written summary of the employee’s accrued, unused sick time must be given to each employee. Most employers put this information on the paycheck stub.

·      No Discrimination/Retaliation.  Employers cannot retaliate or discriminate against employees for asking about, requesting, or using sick time.  Employees may be able to bring civil lawsuits for retaliation or discrimination.  BOLI can also investigate and impose civil penalties.

·      Termination of Employment.  There is no legal obligation to pay an employee for unused sick time at separation of employment for any reason.  Employers can choose to pay employees, but do not have to.

·      Paid Time Off policies.  Employers can meet their obligations under the new law through a PTO policy. The PTO policy must be “substantially equivalent” to the requirements of the law.

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