Another Win in Salem | Oregon Family Leave Act Improved

May 29, 2015

On May 28th the Oregon Senate voted 20 to 10 to pass HB 2600, a bill that will align the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) with FMLA’s continuation of group health insurance coverage when employees are out on leave. Without this added protection, it was possible that some employees could lose their health insurance coverage when they were out on protected family or medical leave, right when they needed it most. The House of Representatives voted to pass the bill 38 to 16 on March 20th.

Family Forward Oregon supports ensuring that no employee covered by the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) will face a loss of health insurance while they are on protected medical leave:

With this bill our state legislature took a welcome step to help working families stay healthy and economically secure when their health or family caregiving responsibilities require them to be away from work for an extended time,” said Family Forward’s Executive Director Andrea Paluso. “Oregon has long been a leader when it comes to family leave, and nobody should risk losing their health insurance when on family and medical leave – during the time they likely need it most.

Representative Barbara Smith Warner
Rep. Barbara Smith Warner

The bill’s champion, Rep. Barbara Smith Warner, was very pleased to see the bill pass the Senate this morning:

Today we made the Oregon Family Leave Act, a law we are respected for around the nation, even stronger with this common-sense health coverage protection, said Rep. Smith Warner. “It’s important to me — and my constituents — that our legislature support public policies like HB 2600 that help working families stay economically secure when faced with life’s inevitable health and family caregiving challenges. When we do, we’re helping Oregonians, their communities, and our economy do better.

Some Background:

Oregon has always been a leader nationally on family and medical leave. In 1987 we were one of the first states to enact parental leave. In 1989, pregnancy disability leave was added to parental leave and in 1991 Oregon enacted the Family Medical Leave Act. Oregon’s leave laws were considered as a model for FMLA, which was enacted in 1993. After FMLA was passed, Oregon repealed all of our previous leave laws to enact OFLA in 1995.

In a number of areas, Oregon made a conscious decision to provide more protections than were found in the federal law, like including protections for sick child leave and covering more employers than FMLA. The primary difference between OFLA and FMLA is the employer threshold size that they are applicable to: OFLA applies to employers of 25 or more employees whereas FMLA applies to employers of 50 or more. Employers of 50 or more employees are covered by both OFLA and FMLA. However, some conditions and types of family members are also covered under OFLA but not FMLA. Both laws are generally similar, though there are some key differences between the two and OFLA is often more protective of employees. In the cases where there is variance between these two laws an employer must apply the provision that is most protective to the employee.

Until today, FMLA was more protective than OFLA in one case: FMLA specifically prohibits an employer from dropping health insurance coverage (if provided by the employer) while an employee is out on protected leave whereas OFLA did not.