On Feb. 7, the Senate Committee on Labor and Business sent a bill that would better align the Oregon Family Leave Act and Paid Leave Oregon to the Senate floor for a vote. Before doing so, the committee adopted a set of amendments negotiated by OBI and other stakeholders. A list of significant changes to the two programs appears below.
First, some context. In 2019, the Legislature created a paid family and medical leave law, known now as Paid Leave Oregon. The program, funded by taxes on employees and employers, provides paid leave for certain conditions and circumstances that are covered by the Oregon Family Leave Act, which provides unpaid leave. Typically, states eliminate redundant unpaid-leave laws when they adopt paid leave laws. Oregon did not.
By preserving a pair of overlapping leave laws, the Legislature ensured that compliance would be complex and confusing for employers and employees. It also allowed for scenarios in which employees could take leave consecutively under the two programs for conditions covered by both. For example, an employee could take several weeks of unpaid leave under OFLA, then take paid leave under Paid Leave Oregon for the same condition.
OBI worked with legislators to better align the two programs in 2023, culminating in the passage of Senate Bill 999. To achieve more complete alignment, OBI subsequently worked with legislators and other stakeholders on legislation in 2024. The result is an amendment to Senate Bill 1515 approved by the Senate Committee on Labor and Business Feb. 7. It makes several changes, both large and small, to both programs. For a full list of changes, you can read the amendment here. The most significant are:
- The amended bill deletes most leave purposes from OFLA, ensuring that such leave is taken under Paid Leave Oregon and eliminating the possibility of leave “stacking.” OFLA will continue to cover a small number of leave types not addressed by Paid Leave Oregon. These include sick child leave, bereavement leave and leave for pregnancy disability.
- The bill allows employees to “top off” Paid Leave Oregon benefits by using accrued paid time off to replace 100% of their wages. Because the Oregon Employment Department, which administers Paid Leave Oregon, does not share benefit amounts with employers, a mechanism to share information must be developed when rules for the law are created. Without such information, employers won’t know how much accrued PTO to use.
- The amended bill addresses a conflict with the state’s scheduling law encountered by some employers. Affected employers are required to set schedules for employees 14 days in advance. This includes employees who fill in for colleagues on protected leave. The change ensures that employers will not be subject to penalty pay if the schedule of an employee must be changed to accommodate the return of a colleague who returns to work without giving at least 14 days’ notice.