News & Announcements

Questions about Oregon’s New Sick Time Law?

January 16, 2016

Sick time image

January 1 not only rang in a new year, it also rang in a new law impacting most private employers and employees in Oregon.  As of January 1, 2016, most Oregon employers are required to provide sick time off in a manner that meets or exceeds the statutory standard.

As many of our clients have had compliance concerns, we are providing the following general information to alert employers to the potential need to implement new policies and practices. As each employer’s situation is unique, we recommend that you obtain legal advice if you have any questions or concerns regarding application of the law to your particular circumstances.

Does the new sick time law apply to my Oregon business?  Most likely, yes. The new law applies to most Oregon employers. A few exceptions exist including independent contractors and employees under a collective bargaining agreement.

Do I have to pay for sick time off?  Employers with 10 or more employees (the number includes seasonal, part-time and temporary employees) must pay for sick time off.   Employers with fewer than 10 employees must provide the time off, but do not have to pay for the same.[1]

How much sick time do I have to provide?  Employees accrue 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked beginning January 1, 2016. New hires begin accruing sick time upon hire, but cannot use the time until the 91st day of employment.  Employers may set written policies whereby the maximum annual accrual is capped at 40 hours, the maximum total accrual is capped at 80 hours, and sick time hours are not paid upon separation from employment.

What are qualified uses of sick time?  Sick time can be used for a broad range of uses including for the employee’s own or a family member’s mental or physical illness or injury, preventative health care (including dental and vision), bereavement, and domestic safety.

What are my options regarding “banking” employees’ sick time?  Employers may choose a calendar, fiscal, hire anniversary or contract year (“year”) for sick time accounting purposes.  Employers may also choose an accrual method or front-loading approach for different categories of employees. The accrual method tracks sick time based on hours worked. The front-loading method involves advance deposit of 40 hours in the employee’s sick time bank upon the 1st day of the chosen “year”.  The best approach will depend upon a variety of factors including employee turn-over and other administration considerations.

What information must I provide to employees?  Employers must provide employees with information about the new law’s benefits and requirements. Notice should include posting the BOLI poster as well as written communication to employees.  Employers must also provide employees with at least quarterly notice of their accrued and unused sick time.

… But, what if I already provide  generous paid time off?  Employers not wishing to pay for sick time off in addition to current paid time off benefits may consider switching to a combined personal time off (“PTO”) policy.  PTO policies require front-loading and careful drafting.

Do I need to review my employee policies?  Yes.  Policies should be reviewed to confirm that they meet or exceed the new law’s requirements regarding accrual and use of sick time.

May I factor an employee’s questionable use of sick time into employment-related decisions?  In most circumstances, no. Employers should obtain legal advice before denying or challenging an employee’s use of accrued sick time, and before making an adverse employment-related decision related to sick time. Employers could be liable for damages and penalties if it is determined that the employer denied, interfered with, or retaliated with respect to use of sick time.

Is there anything I can do regarding potential abuse of sick time?  Yes. Though it is inadvisable to take adverse action based on “use” of sick time, an employer may discipline an employee based on an employee’s failure to follow lawful policy provisions such call-in procedures and advance notice of scheduled events involving use of sick time.

What information may I require from an employee?  Employers may not request documentation regarding absences until the employee has missed 3 consecutive days of work. The employee then has 15 days to supply the information at employer’s cost.  Employer must protect and segregate health related and confidential information in accordance with federal and state law.

Where can I review the law and its requirements?   Among other sources, Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industry (“BOLI”) maintains a section on their website with the law, regulations and posting information at   http://www.oregon.gov/BOLI/TA/pages/index.aspx.

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We hope this general information has been helpful to you.  If we can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.      sheryl@oregonlegalteam.com

 



[1] – In Portland, employers with 6 or more employees must provide paid sick time.