It’s Coming: A Primer on the New Oregon Sick Time Law
By David M. Briggs
SAALFELD GRIGGS PC
Beginning January 1, 2016, employers (regardless of size) will be required to provide sick time to their employees. Most businesses are already providing employees with paid leave (whether sick or PTO). So, what – if anything – will companies need to change? For many companies, they will need to update when accrual of leave begins, how quickly it is accrued, and allowing carryover.
Integrating the new requirements into your current paid leave structure can be tricky, especially since BOLI has not provided us with regulations clarifying all the details of the new law. However, the following FAQ will help guide you in starting that process of updating your policies.
Do I need to pay for sick leave? Yes, if your company is 10 or more employees.
What can employees use the leave for? Employees can use the leave for: (1) Preventative care for themselves or a family member; (2) Care treatment or diagnosis of the employee or family member’s mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; (3) To deal with domestic violence, harassment, sexual assault, or stalking issues; and (4) For any family medical leave covered absence.
How is leave accrued under the new law? Employees receive one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours of accrued leave (unless your policies allow for more leave).
When do employees begin accruing leave and when can they use it? They begin accruing the leave on the first day of employment. But, unless your policies say that use can begin earlier, employees are not able to use it until the 91st day of employment.
Does the leave roll over? Employees can carry over up to 40 hours of unused sick time from one year to the next; however, you can limit employee accruals to no more than 80 hours of sick leave in one year, and you can also limit employees’ use of sick leave to no more than 40 hours in a year.
Can employees donate their leave to other employees? Yes, but only if your policy allows it. In many cases, however, the IRS requires person donating the leave to be the one taxed for that leave. There are some exceptions where the tax obligation shifts to the one actually receiving the money for certain medical emergencies (note: not all leave under this law will qualify as a medical emergency).
What increments do I have to allow employees to take the leave? Except in rare cases, the new law allows employees to take the leave in increments of one hour. Keep in mind, family leave laws may require you to allow employees to take leave in even smaller increments.
What if I have a Paid Time Off (PTO) policy; is that enough to meet requirements under the new law? Generally, so long as your PTO policy meets the other requirements of the new sick leave law, it will count.
Are employees required to provide notice that they are going to take leave? Yes. But, even if the leave is foreseeable, employers may require no more than 10 days’ notice. If the leave is unforeseeable, then the employee must notify the company “as soon as practicable”.
Can I get medical verification from employees? Yes! You can get the medical verification of the need for leave after an employee takes more than three consecutive scheduled works days of sick leave. You can also request verification with fewer absences if you suspect the employee is abusing sick time.
Do I have to pay employees sick leave at termination? No, unless your policy requires payment. But, you should have a policy that addresses what happens to accrued but unused leave at termination. We typically recommend that the policy say that leave is forfeited.
As if all of these issues weren’t enough, integrating your current paid leave policies with these requirements can be easier said than done. Allowing for proper accrual, carryover, and usage rights has been a challenge for employers as they wade into these issues. If you have any questions about sick leave, contact me at Dbriggs@sglaw.com or 503.399.1070.
Saalfeld Griggs P.C. is a business law firm that represents dental practices throughout Oregon and the Northwest. We have more than twenty attorneys who specialize in different areas of the law, including business, transactions, employment, litigation, estate planning, real estate, and employee benefits. You can find more information about our firm at www.sglaw.com or call us at 503.399.1070.
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