SUMMARY OF OREGON’S SICK LEAVE LAW
By Jillian Pollock, Buckley Law, PC
Beginning January 1, 2016, most Oregon employers are required to allow employees to accrue and use up to 40 hours of sick time per year. Oregon employers with 10 or more employees are required to provide paid sick time at the employee’s regular rate of pay. Oregon employers with less than 10 employees are required to provide unpaid sick time. However, the threshold is lower for Portland employers. Portland employers with 6 or more employees are required to provide paid sick time at the employee’s regular rate of pay. Portland employers with less than 6 employees are required to provide unpaid sick time.
Sick time may be taken for the employee’s own physical or mental illness or health condition and for preventative care such as doctor and dental appointments. An employee can also use sick time to care for a family member with a physical or mental illness or health condition or who needs preventative care. Sick time may also be used in the event of a public health emergency, if the employee has been excluded from work for health reasons, or for certain reasons related to domestic relations abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.
Sick time accrues at the rate of 1 hour of sick time per 30 hours worked. Sick time must begin to accrue on the first day of employment. As an alternative to accrual, an employer may frontload the sick time.
The new law permits waiting periods for new employees. For employees hired on or after January 1, 2016, an employer may have a waiting period of up to 90 days before sick time can be used. The employee must begin to accrue sick time as of the first day of employment, and the employee must be allowed to use accrued sick time no later than the 91st calendar day of employment. An employer cannot, however, have a waiting period for employees hired on or before December 31, 2015. Those employees must be allowed to use sick time as it begins to accrue on January 1, 2016.
Generally, an employer must allow an employee to carryover up to 40 hours of unused sick time from one year to the next. However, an employer may limit an employee to accruing a maximum of 80 hours of sick time. An employer may also limit an employee to using a maximum of 40 hours of sick time per year.
An employer must allow an employee to use sick time in one hour increments unless the employer can establish that one hour increments would create an undue hardship. Even if the employer can establish undue hardship, the employer must allow the employee to take sick time in four hour increments and must allow the employee to take up to 56 hours of sick time per year.
An employer can ask for no more than 10 days’ notice of the need to take sick time if the need is foreseeable, such as scheduled doctors’ appointments. However, employees may not know about the need for leave 10 days in advance. In that case, the employee can be required to provide notice as soon as is reasonably practicable. If the need for leave is not foreseeable, such as illness, then an employer can ask an employee to provide notice before the start of a shift or as soon as possible. Employers can ask for medical verification only in limited circumstances and could conceivably have to pay for the costs of the medical visit and for lost wages for time spent going to the doctor’s office for the verification.
The employer must provide a written statement to each employee at least quarterly that details the employee’s accrued and unused sick time to date. This information is often contained on the employee’s paystub.
The employer must also give notice of the requirements of the new law to all employees. Notice of the requirements of the law can be personally delivered to the employee by hand-delivery, mail, or email, posted in a conspicuous location such as a breakroom, or published in an employee handbook available to all employees.
An employer may satisfy the law’s requirements through a paid time off or similar paid leave policy. The employer’s paid time off policy must be “substantially equivalent” to the requirements of the law.
Lastly, the new law strictly prohibits retaliation or discrimination against employees who ask about sick time, request sick time, use sick time, or participate in any investigation or hearing regarding the employer’s sick time policies and practices. BOLI can investigate complaints and impose civil penalties on non-compliant employers. Employees may also be able to file civil lawsuits for retaliation or discrimination.