As we predicted in an earlier article, the Oregon Legislature has introduced a bill (House Bill 3031) to provide paid family and medical leave for all Oregon employees. If passed, the Bill would enact the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Equity Act, creating an insurance fund through which Oregon employees taking family and medical leave (for certain specified reasons) would receive compensation while off work. If passed, the Act will become effective 91 days following the close of the Legislative session, with certain portions of the Act becoming operative on January 1, 2021, and the remaining portions effective January 1, 2023.
Some of the most important provisions of the Bill include:
Who Is Covered
Applies to all Oregon employers employing one or more employees.
An "eligible employee" is an employee who earned at least $300 in wages during the base year.
Employees do not include independent contractors, participants in work training and work-study programs, or volunteers.
How Paid Leave Is Funded
The Bill would create the Family and Medical Leave Insurance Fund, from which benefits would be paid.
This Fund would be paid for by equal contributions made by the employer and employee. Payroll contributions by an employee would not exceed 0.5 percent of the employee's wages.
Benefits would be paid based on a formula relating to the employee's average weekly wage.
Paid leave would be available for the following listed (and somewhat redundant) purposes:
Leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition;
Leave for the employee's serious health condition;
Leave to care for a covered service member;
Leave arising out of a family member's active duty service;
Leave taken because of a period of military conflict; and
Any of the purposes for which leave may be taken under the Oregon Family Leave Act "OFLA").
An employee may qualify for up to 12 weeks of family and medical leave insurance benefits per benefit year.
In addition to this 12 weeks, an employee may also qualify for:
Up to 14 more weeks of benefits for parental leave; and
Up to another six more weeks of benefits for an illness, injury, or condition related to pregnancy or child birth that disables the employee from performing any available job duties offered by the employer.
It is thus possible an employee would be eligible for up to 32 weeks of paid insurance benefits in a benefit year. This is similar to the way OFLA allows employees to take 12 weeks of pregnancy disability leave, an additional 12 weeks of parental leave, and another 12 weeks for sick child leave per year, or a total of 36 weeks of what is now unpaid leave.
The Act would provide a number of protections for employees as well that are similar to OFLA's protections. The employee is entitled to return to the same job on completion of the leave. Further, the employer must maintain any existing health benefits during the period of leave under the same terms as when the employee was working. Employees are protected from interference with their rights under the Act and may not be discriminated against or retaliated against for utilizing the leave.
We will continue to monitor the legislation and provide you with updates as necessary.
This update is prepared for the general information of our clients and friends. It should not be regarded as legal advice. If you have further questions on this topic, please email Clay Creps, a member of our Labor & Employment Practice Group, or the attorney with whom you normally consult.