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Oregon Implements Updates to Expand Program for Employee Emergency Paid Leave

Effective April 1, 2022, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) has enacted a permanent rule regarding the reasons for leave under the state’s Sick and Safe Leave program. Previously under the law, eligible employees could take leave for one of the subsequent reasons:

  • To care for yourself or your family member with a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, need for medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, or need for preventive medical care;
  • To care for an infant or newly adopted child under 18 years of age, or for a newly placed foster child under 18 years of age, or for an adopted or foster child older than 18 years of age if the child is incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability, completed within 12 months after birth or placement of the child;
  • To recover from or seek treatment for a health condition that renders you unable to perform at least one of the essential functions of your regular position;
  • Absences associated with the death of a family member by:
    • Attending the funeral or alternative to a funeral of the family member;
    • Making arrangements necessitated by the death of the family member;
    • Grieving the death of the family member;
  • Absences related to domestic violence, harassment, sexual assault or stalking:
    • To seek legal or law enforcement assistance or remedies to ensure the health and safety of yourself or your minor child or dependent, including preparing for and participating in protective order proceedings or other civil or criminal legal proceedings related to domestic violence, harassment, sexual assault or stalking;
    • To seek medical treatment for or to recover from injuries caused by domestic violence or sexual assault or harassment or stalking that you or your minor child or dependent experienced;
    • To obtain, or to assist a minor child or dependent in obtaining, counseling from a licensed mental health professional related to an experience of domestic violence, harassment, sexual assault or stalking;
    • To obtain services from a victim services provider for yourself or your minor child or dependent;
    • To relocate or take steps to secure an existing home to ensure your health and safety or that of your minor child or dependent;
  • In the event of a public health emergency, including but not limited to:
    • Closure of your place of business, or the school or place of care of your child, by order of a public official due to a public health emergency;
    • A determination by a lawful public health authority or a health care provider that your presence or your family member in the community would jeopardize the health of others;
    • Your exclusion from the workplace under any law or rule that requires your employer to exclude you from the workplace for health reasons.

With Oregon’s fire season right around the corner, the BOLI felt the need to expand on the reasons behind an employee may look to utilize sick and safe leave based on safety reasons. With the implementation of the permanent rule, eligible employees may now take leave for one of the following reasons:

  • An emergency evacuation order of level 2 (SET) or level 3 (GO) issued by a public official with the authority to do so, if the affected area subject to the order includes either the location of the employer’s place of business or the employee’s home address;
  • A determination by a public official with the authority to do so that the air quality index or heat index is at a level where continued exposure to such levels would jeopardize the employee’s health.

Specifically, the BOLI has stated that “it is predicted that drought conditions in Oregon combined with the summer of high heat will result in additional wildfires, dangerous air quality conditions, and extreme heat events. In order to protect workers during these currently unfolding public health emergencies, it is necessary to adopt temporary rules that clearly identify when a public official orders an emergency evacuations or determines that air quality and heat index exposure jeopardize the health of an employee, the employee can use their accrued sick time.”

Next Steps for Employers

In order to prepare for immediate compliance, employers will need to review and update their current Sick and Safe Leave policies to ensure they include the newly added reasons for leave. Additionally, internal leave practices may be impacted as a result of the updated legislation. As a result, internal partners that are responsible for administering leave should review and stay abreast of the changes to eligibility in order to ensure compliance when responding to employee leave requests.

HR Works, headquartered in Upstate New York, is a human resource management outsourcing and consulting firm serving clients throughout the United States for over thirty years. HR Works provides scalable strategic human resource management and consulting services, including: affirmative action programs; benefits administration outsourcing; HRIS self-service technology; full-time, part-time and interim on-site HR managers; HR audits; legally reviewed employee handbooks and supervisor manuals; talent management and recruiting services; and training of managers and HR professionals.