Oregon’s New Paid Medical and Family Leave Act

Beginning January 1, 2023, Oregon employers will have to provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave to certain eligible employees. Under the recently passed House Bill 2005, which was the catalyst that created Oregon’s new Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) Equity Act, workers who have earned at least $1,000 in wages in a base year will receive up to 12 weeks of paid time off to welcome a child to their family. The benefits may also be utilized to deal with domestic violence, recuperate from a worker’s own serious illness, or care for newly adopted or foster child. The law will become effective September 29, 2019, though employers are not required to start contributing to the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Fund, the fund that will be administered by Oregon’s Employment Department, until January 2022.

Legislative Intent

In the bill that was chiefly sponsored by Representative Williamson, Senator Taylor, Representative Alonso Leon, Bonham, and Senator Knopp, Oregon’s Legislative Assembly found that employees experience a variety of caregiving obligations that interfere with work time and therefore, it was in the public interest to create a family and medical leave insurance program to provide to employees and certain other individuals compensated time off from work to care for and bond with a child during the first year after the child’s birth or arrival through adoption or foster care, to provide care for a family member who has a serious health condition, or to recover from an employee’s or an individual’s own serious health condition.

Exemption for Businesses with Less than 25 Employees

Under the new law, Oregon employers with fewer than 25 employees are exempt from making the required employer contributions. For larger companies, employees would cover 60%, with employers contributing 40%.  The Oregon Employment Department would base rates on an employee’s wages, with worker contributions not to exceed 1% of an individual’s earnings.

Some Limitations and Extensions

In any week in which an employee is eligible to receive workers’ compensation or unemployment benefits under ORS chapter 656 or 657, the employee is disqualified from receiving family and medical leave insurance benefits. Before this new legislation, most workers in Oregon were protected under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act that allows for 12 weeks without pay. Now, employees must combine this new paid leave program offered by the state to occur concurrently with federal unpaid leave. However, the time cannot exceed 16 weeks in a year with an exception that allows for up to 18 weeks for women who have experienced complications due to pregnancy. Vacation time offered by employers are not included and could be added to exceed 16 or 18 weeks. The rate of pay an employee receives during a period of leave is based on their salary or hourly wage.

Employment Protection

The new law also includes guarantees for the worker upon their return to the workplace after taking leave. For business with over 25 employees, after returning to work after a period of family leave, medical leave, or safe leave, an eligible employee is entitled to be restored to the position of employment held by the employee when the leave commenced, if that position still exists, without regard to whether the employer filled the position with a replacement worker during the period of leave. If the position held by the employee at the time leave commenced no longer exists, the employee is entitled to be restored to any available equivalent position with equivalent employment benefits, pay and other terms and conditions of employment. For employers that employ fewer than 25 employees, if the position held by an eligible employee when the employee’s leave commenced no longer exists, an employer may, at the employer’s discretion based on business necessity, restore the eligible employee to a different position with similar job duties and with the same employment benefits and pay.

More Information

For more information about House Bill 2005 and Oregon’s Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) Equity Act, see the enrolled bill here and contact your attorney at Wallace, Klor, Mann, Capener & Bishop, P.C. with questions. As always, this general information is not presented as legal advice for a specific current or prospective client.