Portland City Council Passes Mandatory Sick Leave Ordinance
On March 13, 2013, the Portland City Council unanimously approved an ordinance proposed by Portland Commissioner Amanda Fritz, which requires Portland area employers to provide sick leave for their employees. In passing the ordinance, Portland joined Seattle, San Francisco, Milwaukee, Connecticut, and Washington D.C. in requiring companies to provide sick leave to employees. The new ordinance takes effect on January 1, 2014.
Under the ordinance, employers with six or more employees must provide a maximum of 40 hours of paid sick leave. Employers with five or fewer employees still have to provide the same amount of sick leave but, for them, the leave can be unpaid. Only employees who work in Portland in excess of 240 hours per year are eligible for sick leave. Employees may not use sick leave during the first 90 days of employment. In addition, employees may carry over into the following calendar years up to 40 hours of accrued but unused sick time. Employers are not required to pay unused sick time upon termination or other separation from employment unless the employer has contractually agreed to do so, for example, in a handbook or other communication to the employees. Employers who have Paid Time Off ("PTO") policies do not have to provide additional sick leave as long as their current PTO policy complies with the provisions of the ordinance.
The ordinance imposes notification requirements on employees and significant documentation and notice provisions on employees. Like many employment laws, the ordinance also prohibits retaliation or discrimination on the basis of sick leave rights.
Even though the ordinance will not take effect until January 1, 2014, employers should review their policies and devise strategies for complying with the ordinance. One option would be to adopt a PTO policy that meets the requirements of the ordinance. Another option would be to add a sick leave benefit to existing leave policies. Please contact us if you have any questions as to what the ordinance requires or how it should be implemented.