Oregon’s Paid Family and Medical Leave law allows employees to take paid leave from work for up to 12 weeks. Find out more details here.
Here's what you need to know:
- Eligible employees can take paid leave from work for up to 12 weeks
- Workers can start drawing benefits January 1, 2023
- California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington, and the District of Columbia, also offer paid family and medical leave
As of January 1, 2023, Oregon employers and workers began paying into the new Oregon paid family medical leave program. On September 2, 2023, Oregon employees can start applying for job-protected paid family leave benefits, along with medical and paid safe leave.
The bill was signed by democratic Governor Katy Brown. It provides 12 weeks of job-protected, paid leave in Oregon each year for all workers who make more than $1,000 annually.
Understanding the new Oregon paid family leave law
The law applies to all employers who have 1 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 also signed on for paid family leave. California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington, in addition to the District of Columbia, also offer paid family and medical leave. Many states are starting to provide similar parental leave or equivalent plans and leave benefits.
Oregon is one of the first states to require that low-income workers be paid 100% of their wages while on leave. Higher-income Oregon employees will receive partial wage replacement, depending on their income.
How will the Oregon family leave benefits be funded?
The benefits will be funded with a payroll tax. Both employers and employees are required to contribute. 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 the 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 3 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.
Which employees are eligible to take Oregon paid family leave?
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 1st year, adoption, caregiving for someone in the employee’s household, and family members. “Family members” is broadly defined and include 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 Oregon employees take paid family leave?
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.
Eligible employees can take up to 12 weeks of leave under the new law.
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.
What is the Oregon paid family leave payout amount?
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 can receive 100% wage replacement during their leave. This includes those who make less than 65% of Oregon’s average weekly wage as determined by the Employment Department Director. Higher wage earners will receive lower benefits based on a tiered system.
Benefit amounts can be paid in 1-day or 1-workweek amounts.
Who pays for Oregon paid family leave benefits?
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. They employer pays 60% and the employee pays 40%.
Not all employers have to pay the tax. Employers with fewer than 25 employees won’t have to contribute. However, employees of small employers are eligible for benefits under the new law.
But 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. That would help cover the cost of replacement workers.
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. They will also be required 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.
Workers who take leave under the new law have job protection
Workers employed 90 days or more before the start of the leave are entitled to job protection. They are also entitled to 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 fewer 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.
Retaliation by Oregon employers is prohibited
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.
What is the Oregon employee notice requirement?
Employers may require eligible employees to provide written notice up to 30 days before any foreseeable need for leave. They may require employees to give verbal notice within 24 hours of the beginning of unexpected leave. Unexpected leave may include a medical condition, premature birth, or safe leave. That is followed by written notice within 3 days after the start of leave.
What is the Oregon employer notice requirement?
Employers are required to provide notice to employees of their rights and duties. This includes their right to receive benefits and the procedure for filing a claim.
It also includes employee job protection and benefits continuation. Additionally, it includes employee rights to be free from discrimination, bring civil actions, and to have health information kept confidential.
What about employers that offer equivalent plans?
Employers may apply for approval of their own plan. They may do this as long as it is equivalent to the offerings of the new paid leave law.
What will the enforcement of the Oregon program entail?
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. Violations carry both civil and criminal penalties.
More private employers are offering paid family leave
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act 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. However, 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.
This article has been updated.