Workers in Oregon will soon be joining the ranks of the increasing number of employees who can take job-protected, paid family, medical and safe leave. Democratic Governor Katy Brown recently signed a bill that provides 12 weeks of job-protected, paid leave annually for all Oregon workers who make more than $1,000 a year.
The law applies to all employers who have one or more employees working anywhere in the state, except for the federal government. Those who are self-employed and tribal governments can also elect for coverage under the new law.
HB 2005 means that Oregon is the latest state to require paid family and medical leave for eligible employees. Connecticut signed on for paid family leave in June. California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington, in addition to the District of Columbia, also offer paid family and medical leave.
Workers can start drawing benefits January 1, 2023.
Oregon is one of the first states to require that low-income workers be paid 100% of their wages while on leave. Higher income workers will receive partial wage replacement, depending on their income.
Workers can start drawing benefits January 1, 2023.
The benefits will be funded with a payroll tax. Both employers and employees are required to contribute. The employer and employee contribution requirement goes into effect in 2022.
The bill was passed with bipartisan support, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
The Oregon Legislative Assembly noted in the bill that it’s in the public interest to create a family and medical leave insurance program to provide compensated time off from work for workers to recover from their own serious health conditions and to care for children and family members.
Under current state law, the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA), which is similar to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, allows eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave a year if they work for a business that has 25 or more employees, according to a fact sheet from the Oregon Health Authority.
But, the authority notes, as with FMLA, many employers are not OFLA-covered, many employees are not OFLA-eligible, and even eligible employees with a new child may be unable to afford to take unpaid leave. Among Oregon women who worked during the last three months of pregnancy, 14.3% reported having been offered fully paid leave, 23.4% partially paid and 42.9% unpaid; 19.3% were offered no leave, the authority says.
To be eligible for the new leave law employees must have received at least $1,000 in wages during the base year.
What can it be used for?
Leave can be taken for:
- Family matters: Such as the birth of a child, bonding with a child during the first year, adoption, caregiving for someone in the employee’s household, and family members. Family members is broadly defined and includes parents, a parent’s spouse, a parent’s domestic partner, siblings, step-siblings, step-sibling’s spouse and domestic partner, grandparents, grandparent’s spouse and domestic partner, a grandchild, the grandchild’s spouse and domestic partner, and so forth
- Sick/medical matters: So that an employee can care for their own illness or the illness of a sick family member
- Safe matters: For dealing with issues related to domestic violence, harassment, sexual assault, or stalking
How long can leave be taken?
Eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of leave under the new law. Family and medical leave insurance benefits are in addition to any paid sick time already provided under Oregon law, vacation leave, or other paid leave earned by the employee.
Because benefits can be claimed in 1-day or 1-week increments, it looks like the leave can be taken intermittently, in 1-day or 1-week increments.
An employee is disqualified from receiving family and medical leave insurance benefits in any week in which the employee is eligible to receive workers’ compensation or unemployment benefits under Oregon law.
Leave payout is modeled after Oregon’s unemployment insurance program. The total amount of benefits an employee recovers will depend on the employee’s wages and contributions to the paid family and medical leave pool.
The lowest wage earners, those who make less than 65% of Oregon’s average weekly wage as determined by the Employment Department Director, can receive 100% wage replacement during their leave. Higher wage earners will receive lower benefits based on a tiered system.
Benefit amounts can be paid in 1-day or 1 work week amounts.
Benefits will be funded with a 1% tax on the gross wages of employees, up to a maximum of $132,900. The tax is split between employer and employee with the employer paying 60% and the employee paying 40%.
Not all employers have to pay the tax, employers with fewer than 25 employees won’t have to contribute, although employees of small employers are eligible for benefits under the new law. However, if such an employer – those with 25 employees or less – does make the employer contribution, then they are eligible for grants of as much as $3,000 to help cover the cost of replacement workers.
Payroll contributions begin Jan. 1, 2022.
Employers may pay the employee’s portion as an employer-offered benefit.
Employers will be required to file a quarterly report of wages earned by employees, and to pay contributions quarterly on or before the month after the quarter ends.
Self-employed individuals and tribal government employers who opt into the program will make contributions at the same rate as other employers.
Job protected leave
Workers employed 90 days or more before the start of the leave are entitled to job protection and continued health insurance during the leave.
Employees must be restored to their former positions upon their return from leave. If the position no longer exists upon return, employees are entitled to an equivalent position with equivalent pay and benefits.
Employees who take leave under the new law do not lose any employment benefits such as seniority or pension rights earned before the leave began. However, employers with less than 25 employees, may restore an employee to a different position with similar job duties and the same pay if the position was eliminated during leave.
It is unlawful to deny leave, discriminate or retaliate against an eligible employee who has taken advantage of the leave or any provisions of the new leave law.
Employee notice requirement
Employers may require eligible employees to provide written notice up to 30 days before any foreseeable need for leave, and verbal notice within 24 hours of the beginning of unexpected leave for a medical condition, premature birth, or safe leave, followed by written notice within 3 days after the start of leave.
Employer notice requirement
Employers are required to provide notice to employees of their rights and duties, including their right to receive benefits, the procedure for filing a claim, employee job protection, and benefits continuation, and employee rights to be free from discrimination, bring civil actions, and to have health information kept confidential.
Employers may apply for approval of their own plan as long as it is equivalent to the offerings of the new paid leave law.
Employees may sue employers for violating the program beginning January 1, 2025.
An employer’s officers, members, or partners may be held personally liable for violations of the law, which carry both civil and criminal penalties.
Paid leave in other places
There is no federal law that mandates paid family and medical leave. The federal Family and Medical Leave provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave for employers with 50 or more employees. There are bills under consideration on Capitol Hill that would provide a national paid family and medical leave requirement but none of them have progressed much beyond being introduced in Congress.
As the states move to make paid family and medical leave a reality for working Americans, private employers, especially tech companies, have also been at the forefront in fashioning paid family leave policies. Microsoft, Google, Netflix, Spotify and Hewlett Packard Enterprise have beefed up such benefits in recent times.