200 SW Market Street, Suite 1950
Portland, Oregon 97201
October 4, 2022
As outlined in our previous alert, effective January 1, 2023, most Oregon employees and employers will begin paying into the new Family and Medical Leave Insurance (“FMLI”) program, Paid Leave Oregon. Employers who have not been granted an equivalent plan waiver are required to post a model notice (or substantial equivalent) poster at each work site and also provide it electronically or by mail to any remote workers no later than January 1, 2023. This notice informs employees about the benefits that will be provided by Paid Leave Oregon starting September 3, 2023, and instructs employees of their rights and duties under the program.
In addition, employers should be taking the following steps to make sure they are ready to communicate this new benefit program to employees.
Become Familiar With Paid Leave Oregon
The Oregon Employment Department’s Paid Leave Oregon website provides employers with a wealth of easily-digestible information regarding the FMLI program, its benefits, employee eligibility, and employer responsibilities. In a nutshell, Paid Leave Oregon (or employer-sponsored equivalent plans) will be providing employees with 12 weeks of compensable time off for family leave, medical leave, and safe leave, with an additional 2 weeks of paid leave available for employees with pregnancy-related medical conditions.
The state’s plan is funded by employee and employer contributions. Employers participating in Paid Leave Oregon (those that do not receive an equivalent plan waiver) must begin taking contributions out of employees’ paychecks effective January 1, 2023. Small employers – those with fewer than 25 (nationwide) employees – are not required to make employer contributions, but those who do so will be eligible for assistance grants to help with the cost of hiring temporary replacement workers to cover those who take leave.
Review Current Paid Time Off and Other Leave Policies
Employers will want to update their current policies and other employee communication materials (e.g., handbooks) to include language regarding the job-protected nature of FMLI leave, as well as employee rights and responsibilities for making a Paid Leave Oregon claim. However, rather than inserting boilerplate language into a handbook, we recommend employers take this opportunity to review and perhaps reconsider their approach to time off policies in general.
For instance, the paid leave benefits provided by Paid Leave Oregon (or the employer’s equivalent paid leave plan) might not align with the employer’s other paid or unpaid time off policies. Employers subject to other protected leave programs under the Oregon Family Leave Act (“OFLA”) or the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) may want to ensure policies are written to ensure – to the extent possible – the benefits will run concurrently and thus prevent the possibility of “leave stacking” which could allow employees to take more than six months off work using job-protected leave.
Additionally, Paid Leave Oregon benefits are to be made in addition to other employee benefits, including Oregon Sick Leave, short-term disability insurance, paid sick time, vacation, or other PTO policies. With this expansion of sick leave benefits, employers may want to consider tailoring the remainder of their benefit packages to better dovetail with these mandated benefits.
Because benefits under Paid Leave Oregon are not payable until September 3, 2023, employers have time to strategize how to align leave policies to take the greatest advantage of the state’s program while meeting the employer’s other goals and employee expectations for other paid time off.
Oregon employers wishing to review their sick leave and other PTO policies in light of this new state-sponsored (or self-insured) benefit are encouraged to contact the employment law experts at Bullard Law. Employers with unions and collectively bargained agreements also should consult the labor law experts at Bullard Law to consider their options.
The content of this Alert is provided for general information purposes only. It should not be considered legal advice or financial advice or used as a substitute for consulting an attorney for legal advice.