Unlike other developed countries, the United States has no countrywide paid sick leave laws. President Obama is trying to change that, calling for a national paid sick leave bill in his 2015 State of the Union Address. Democrats re-introduced legislation for it in February 2015 but haven’t been able to enact it. As of June 22, 2015, four states have mandatory paid sick leave laws. Oregon is the latest state joining California, Massachusetts, and Connecticut in making paid sick leave a legal requirement.
Oregon’s new law means employers with 10 or more employees (six or more in Portland) are required to provide their Oregon employees in Oregon with up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year starting in 2016. Smaller employers are required to provide the same amount of sick leave but it can be unpaid. The law applies to full-time employees, part-time employees, temporary and seasonal employees in the private and public sector. It excludes the federal government.
Employees start accruing sick time January 1, 2016, or on their first day of employment. They earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, or one and a third hours for every 40 hours worked up to 40 hours per year. Employees can carry over up to 40 hours of unused sick time each year, but employers do not have to pay out any unused sick time when they leave employment.
Employees can use paid or unpaid sick time for adverse health conditions including illness and injury, for their own health issues, to take care of a family member with health issues, and for other issues such as situations allowed under Oregon’s laws about domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault and harassment. Employers may require medical verification for sick leave of more than three consecutive scheduled workdays, but must pay any costs of verification not covered under a health plan.
Employers must not interfere with employees who request sick leave or retaliate against them when they use it and employees have the right to sue employers who do so. Employers must notify employees quarterly of their accrued and unused sick time, and must provide written notice to employees of the paid sick leave law.
While 81 percent of survey respondents are in favor of sick leave legislation according to The Public Religion Research Institute, many states are fighting paid sick leave law. Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Tennessee have all passed laws prohibiting paid sick leave ordinances.
California, Massachusetts, and Connecticut all have Paid Sick Leave requirements. The basics of the laws are very similar, with only minor differences in the provisions and accrual calculations.
Oregon employers should be reviewing their policies for paid time off, vacation, and other paid leave to figure out if they have to implement paid sick time policy to comply. They should also communicate to managers and supervisors about the new law and any needed changes to company policies, especially policies about tracking and reporting sick leave and whether or not they pay out unused accrued sick leave on termination.
Employers in states trying to squash paid sick leave legislation should watch their legislators’ activity on the issue, both locally and at the state level. Washington State is one state currently considering statewide sick leave legislation, Chicago is getting ready to vote on paid sick leave, and Philadelphia lawmakers are debating it. Employers should find out how the governors in their states feel about state and local paid sick leave, and pay attention to the legislative actions.
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