United States: Mandatory Sick Time For All Of Oregon

Last Updated: June 29 2015
Article by Amy L. Angel and Shayda Zaerpoor Le

Oregon is poised to become the fourth state in the country to mandate that employers provide protected sick time to all employees. On June 12, 2015, the Oregon legislature passed Senate Bill 454, mandating sick time to be provided by Oregon employers. The bill is awaiting the Governor's signature and, when signed, will be slated to go into effect January 1, 2016.

Key highlights of SB 454 include:

  • Overall: Employers that have employees working anywhere in Oregon must implement a sick leave policy that will allow an employee to earn and use up to 40 hours of sick time per year. Sick time is protected and employers must not retaliate or discriminate against an employee who inquires about, requests, or uses protected time.
  • Accrual: Sick time must accrue at a rate of at least one hour for every 30 hours worked, unless the employer elects to frontload sick time. Employees begin to earn and accrue sick time as of the first day of employment.
  • Carryover: An employee may carry over up to 40 hours of unused sick time from one year to a subsequent year but an employer may limit an employee to accruing no more than 80 hours of sick time and to using no more than 40 hours of sick time in a year.
  • Use: Employees may use sick time beginning their 91st day of employment and it may be used for the employee's own physical or mental illness, injury, or health condition (including routine doctor or dentist appointments), as well as for the care of a family member, for absences due to domestic violence, or in the event of a public health emergency. The employee cannot be required to find a replacement worker or work an alternate shift as a condition of, or to make up for, the use of sick time.
  • Increments of Use: Employers must allow employees to use sick time in hourly increments unless to do so would impose an undue hardship on the employer and the employer has a policy that allows an employee to use at least 56 hours of paid leave per year that may be taken in minimum increments of four hours.
  • Paid Sick Time: Employers with 10 or more employees must provide sick time as paid. However, the threshold number of employees for paid sick time drops to 6 for employers that maintain any office, store, restaurant or establishment within the City of Portland. Paid sick time must be paid at the employee's regular rate of pay and without a reduction in benefits.
  • Unpaid Sick Time: Employers with fewer than 10 employees (or fewer than 6 for Portland employers) must offer unpaid sick time, but may elect to offer it as paid.
  • Vacation/PTO: Employers are free to provide for more generous sick leave policies and may comply with SB 454 through vacation or paid time off policies so long as the minimum requirements of SB 454 are met.
  • Employee Notice Requirements: Employers may still require their employees to comply with their usual notice and procedural requirements for absences and requesting time off so long as those requirements do not interfere with the employees' ability to make use of their accrued sick time. However, an employer may not require more than 10 days' advance notice of foreseeable leave.
  • Limited Union Exception: SB 454 provides a limited exception for employees whose terms and conditions of employment are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, who are employed through a hiring hall or similar referral system, and whose employment benefits are provided by a joint multi-employee trust or benefit plan. Other unionized workers who do not fall within this exception must be provided sick time in accordance with SB 454.
  • Local Ordinances Preempted: The good news is that SB 454 preempts local governments from setting any sick leave requirements. That means that, as of January 1, 2016, Portland's Sick Time Ordinance and Eugene's Sick Leave Ordinance will no longer be in effect, leaving employers to focus just on the Oregon state-wide requirements. Employers subject to the Portland Ordinance should continue to comply with it through the end of the year. The Eugene Ordinance is slated to go into effect July 1, 2015, however, the City Council will be voting on June 22, 2015, whether to postpone or suspend the implementation date.

Once the Governor signs SB 454, BOLI will be working on regulations and drafting required notices. In the meantime, employers should begin updating their current policies to ensure existing PTO, vacation, and/or sick leave policies meet all of the requirements of SB 454.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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