Starting January 1, 2016, many working Oregonians will be able to earn and use job-protected sick time, which means you can take time off from work when you or your family members are sick or need to see a doctor without getting penalized.
For many Oregonians that time must also be paid — but whether it is depends on how many people work for your employer. In short, bigger employers must pay, very small ones are not required to pay though they must allow you to take the sick time without being penalized.
To know if you’ll have protected and paid or just protected sick time, ask yourself 2 questions:
- Is your employer located in Portland or not? (where you actually work isn’t the trigger, it’s where your employer is located)
- How many employees does your employer have?
If your employer is located in Portland, read this:
Since January 1, 2014, your employer has been required to provide up to 40 hours of sick time per year, which you earn at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours you work (or employers can choose to “front load” your time at the beginning the year).
- If your employer has five or fewer employees, your employer is not required to pay you when you use your accrued sick time, but your time is what’s called job-protected, meaning you can’t be penalized for using it. They can, however, choose to pay you.
- If your employer has at least six employees and maintains a location in Portland (even if fewer than six of the total employees work in Portland), your employer must pay you when you use your accrue sick time.
If your employer is located outside Portland, read this:
Starting January 1, 2016, your employer will be required to provide up to 40 hours of protected and possible paid sick time per year, which you will earn as you work at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours you work (or employers can choose to “front load” your time at the beginning the year). Whether or not the time is paid depends on the size of your employer:
- If your employer has nine or fewer employees, your employer is not required to pay you when you use your accrued sick time, but your time is what’s called job-protected, meaning you can’t be penalized for using it. They can, however, choose to pay you.
- If your employer has 10 or more employees, your employer is required to pay you when you use your accrued sick time.
- If your employer maintains a Portland location with fewer than six employees but also maintains locations outside Portland and the total number of employees is six or more, your employer is required to pay you when you use your accrued sick time.
What you can use sick time for:
- Your own or an immediate family member’s non-serious or serious illness or preventive health care.
- Absences resulting from workplace or school closures,
- Reasons related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking that affect the employee or the employee’s family members,
- Parental leave,
- Bereavement leave.
Covered family members include: the employee’s spouse, children, parents, parents-in-law, grandparents, grandchildren and registered same-sex domestic partners.
9 Important Points Beyond the Basics
1. How many hours can you take at once? You can take your sick time in as small as one-hour increments, for things like doctors appointments. If you know in advance that you will need to use sick time, you should make reasonable effort to not interrupt your work schedule and should tell your employer as soon as is possible. If employers claim “undue hardship,” they can make you take it in no shorter than 4-hour increments. If they go this route, employers must: 1) allow you up to 56 hours/year, not just 40; 2) notify you in writing of this minimum; and 3) if you don’t have 4 hours accrued but need to use sick time, employers must provide you the additional time to make up the difference unpaid but job protected.
2. Can you use your sick time right when you start working? You start accruing sick time on your first day of employment (or 1/1/16 if you’re already employed), but your employer can impose a 90-day waiting period before you can use the time you have accrued.
3. Who makes sure my employer is following the law? Compliance for this law is what’s called “complaint driven,” meaning violations are only uncovered if employees call in and complain. Call BOLI to report it or consult a private attorney. No-one is routinely checking on employer compliance, but you have a right to file a complaint.
4. Exempt workers — not everyone is covered. Some types of work are exempted from this requirement: independent contractors, federal employees, students in work-study programs, railroad workers, employees who are the parent, spouse or child of the employer, building and construction trade union employees, and stage and theater union employees.
5. No year-end “cash out.” The law does not require employers to pay you for any unused time at the end of a year or when you leave the job for any reason.
6. You work on commission? If you’re paid on commission or piece rate, your sick time pay must be at your regular rate of pay or at least the Oregon minimum wage.
7. Got PTO? That can count. If your employer already has a PTO policy that meets or exceeds the standards of the law, nothing will change for you. To find out if your PTO policy complies with the law, contact BOLI.
8. Yes, your employer can require a doctor’s note — after 3 days: Employers can require medical verification for if you’re out sick for more than three consecutive days or if they suspect you’re abusing the policy, and they must pay for any costs associated with getting the note, including lost wages.
9.You can trade shifts with coworkers if you and your employer both agree: If you and your employer agree, you can trade shifts with another employee rather than take a paid sick day. If you are using your accrued sick time and don’t want to trade shifts, it is not your responsibility to find a replacement worker or to work any extra shifts.
Care to know more?
- If your employer is located in Portland: bit.ly/PdxSickDaysBOLI.
- Outside Portland info will be posted after the final rules are made later in 2015.
PLEASE NOTE: Nothing in this document is intended as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please consult an attorney.