Oregon Sick Leave Law

The Oregon Sick Leave Law is under Senate Bill 454, which took effect on January 1, 2016. 

This law is beneficial for the protection of employers and employees both. The Oregon Sick Leave Law was updated in 2018 to iron out special employees’ limits and payment rates. 

Covered Employers

An employer in Oregon must provide their employees with a 40-hour paid sick time a year. Full-time employees earn an hour of sick time every time they complete a 30-hour workload.

Employers should provide eligible employees regular wage when they take sick time. Regular rates do not cover overtime pay, discretionary bonuses, holiday pay, or types of incentive pay or premium pay.

Companies and employers must also consider things like paid and unpaid leaves, the entitlement of employees, permitted sick time usage, and the combination of sick leave and paid time off (PTO). 

An employer must provide paid sick time if the company has 10 or more employees. The requirement for sick leave in Portland is smaller, with only six employees. A company with an employee population lower than required may give unpaid but protected leaves. 

Eligible Employees and Exemptions

All employees in the state of Oregon are entitled to sick leave, whether full-time, part-time, or temporary workers. Full-time workers must be given 40 hours of sick leave based on their work hours accomplished in a year. Part-time employees and seasonal employees are given fewer sick time hours.

Here are situations where an employee is not entitled to receive sick leave time:

  • If the employee is engaged in a work-study program
  • If the employee is an independent contractor
  • If the employee gets paid under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • If the employee is related to a small business owner, parent, spouse, or child
  • If the employee is involved in a state or federal work training program
  • Railroad workers exempted under the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act

Employers in Oregon are not required to give newly hired employees sick time upon hiring. They may need newly hired employees to accomplish a 90-day requirement work time before giving them sick leave.

Moreover, employers in Oregon are not required to pay accrued and unused sick leave time.

Employees leaving their company must refer to their company policy. If the company’s policies dictate the payment of accrued and unused sick leave, the employer must pay its outgoing employee. The company or employer must follow its policies if it explicitly states the above statement.

Paid vs. Unpaid; Sick Leave Based on Location and Employee Size

A protected sick leave can be unpaid if a company fails to reach a certain employee size and is located in a certain city.

A paid sick leave will be given to an employee if the company is located in Oregon and employs more than 10 workers. If you are located in Portland, the employee size requirement is down to six workers. Unpaid sick leave will be awarded if these requirements are not met.

The employee number is determined by its daily average for companies with fluctuating employee sizes. A paid sick leave must be given to all employees if a company averages 10 employees daily (six or more in Portland) over any 20-week period.

Pre-Approved Sick Leave Uses

Sick leave is an important benefit for employees. It gives an employee time to care for themselves or their loved ones. Employees are permitted to have sick leaves during the calendar year of official employment.

Here are several pre-approved reasons where sick leave is applicable:

  • Clinical appointments
  • Recuperating from a health condition or serious injury
  • Mental illness
  • Physical illness
  • Bereavement and funerals for family members
  • Domestic violence or harassment of any form (physical, verbal, or sexual assault)

Other reasons for using sick leaves:

  • Parental leave or caring for an injured or seriously ill or incapacitated relative or disabled children
  • Bringing a family member to any health or clinical appointment
  • Caring for a child whose school is closed because of a public health emergency

In special cases, leaves can be given to employees for other reasons that are not on this list.

Covered Family Members

An employee obligated to care for a family member with a serious health condition must be given sick time. Here is the list of covered family members:

  • Spouse or same-gender domestic partner
  • Child
    • Biological child
    • Stepchild
    • Adopted child
    • Grandchild
    • Same-gender domestic partner’s child
    • Foster child
  • Parent
    • Biological parent
    • Stepparent
    • Adoptive parent
    • Grandparent
    • Parent-in-law
    • Foster parent
    • Same-gender domestic partner’s parent
  • In loco parentis or legal guardian

Employer Requirements

Employers must give their employers accurate records of sick time accrual and usage, adequate information about their sick time rights, and regular updates about their sick time balance.

Proper Posting and Notice

In the state of Oregon, having an employee handbook and placing compliance posters around the work area are required for informational purposes. It ensures the proper dissemination of necessary facts for compliance with labor laws.

The said sick time posters must be accessible and readable to all employees.

A company must send all employees post notices via email if they work remotely. Including the sick time poster and other compliance requirements involving sick time policies in those emails is highly encouraged.

Sick Time Balance Statements

Oregon employers must provide employees with a minimum quarterly statement of their sick time balance. The statement must include the number of sick hours they have accrued and used throughout.

The availability of these statements must be easy for employees. If the company uses payroll software, it can include a calculation to meet the law’s requirements. 

Proper Documentation

A covered employer must be considerate when asking for proof or documentation of an employee’s sick leave, illness, or covered family members.

Here are practical situations where employers can ask their employees for proper documentation:

  • When the employee is out for three straight working days
  • When the employee’s sick time is foreseeable and will be longer than three straight days
  • When an employee fails to provide notice of their sick leave (10 days for foreseeable absence, reasonable for physical illness and injury)
  • When the employee is questionable, such as when he has excessive absences or abuses the PTO

Structuring a Sick Leave Policy in Oregon

Oregon Sick Leave Law allows companies to structure their sick-leave policies differently. 

The beauty of Oregon’s sick leave law is the flexibility in calculation rules. These are proven methods for structuring sick leave policies for employees. Those two methods are Accrual and Front-loaded.

These methods are flexible enough to be used in a single company. The Accrual Method and Front-loaded Method cover distinct employee categorizations.

The first one is advisable for part-time and seasonal employees. The second is compatible with full-time employees as long as the difference is established and doesn’t impact the requirements.

The Accrual Method

There is no need for prorating in this method. Sick leave hours pile up as your employees work. This calculation-based method is used to compute the accrued time off of an employee. An eligible employee must garner 30 work hours to achieve one hour of sick time. That means 1 1/3 hours are achieved for every 40 hours worked.

It begins on the day of employment of salaried employees and applies to part-time and full-time workers. If the accrued 40-hour minimum is achieved, the employer may choose to add sick time hours or stop.

If we follow the computation, a full-time employee may be given 70 hours a year for sick time. Additionally, unused sick time of up to 40 hours can be carried over from the previous year to the following year. An eligible full-time employee can garner up to 80 sick hours in one calendar year.

The Front-Loaded Method

Front-loading is more straight to the point. It gives eligible employees 40 hours of sick time up front in a 12-month year. That said, the type of yearly tracking a company uses determines the number of sick hours an employee receives.

If a company tracks using a 12-month year and an employee joins the company mid-year, they will get the full 40 hours. If the company tracks by calendar year starting January 1, an employee who started mid-year will only get half of the 40 hours.

It’s worth noting that this method does not apply to part-timers. The law dictates that an employer must load 40 hours at the start of the year. Exceptions are made if the employee joins later in the year.

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