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Oregon City Mandates Paid Sick Leave but County Wants Status Quo

The City of Eugene, located in Oregon’s Lane County, has passed a paid sick leave ordinance mandating that all employers located or operating in the City provide their employees with paid sick time.

Eugene joins Portland as the only cities in Oregon to enact such legislation and the ninth city nationwide to do so. Other cities include New York City, NY, Newark, NJ, San Francisco, CA, and Seattle, WA.

Responding to the Eugene Ordinance, the Lane County Board of Commissioners adopted its own ordinance aimed at blocking cities in the County from enacting local laws that mandate employment conditions, including paid sick leave. The Eugene Sick Leave is scheduled to take effect July 1, 2015, but it could be derailed if the Lane County legislation is upheld by the courts.

The Eugene Ordinance would apply to all private-sector businesses located within the City, regardless of the location of the employer’s primary place of business and regardless of the employer’s size. The Ordinance also extends sick leave benefits to any employee who travels to Eugene to work, regardless of where the employer is located, if the employee works in Eugene at least 240 hours in a year.

Under the leave law, employees would accrue sick time at the minimum rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours of paid leave per year. Newly hired employees accrue leave from the outset of employment, but are subject to a 90-day waiting period before accrued leave may be used.

Any unused sick time can be carried over to the following calendar year, but an employee’s annual use of sick time under the new law is capped at 40 hours.

The Eugene Sick Leave would extend well beyond traditional sick leave. Paid leave may be taken not only for an employee’s own illness, injury, or preventive medical care, but also for a qualifying family member’s similar needs. Additionally, leave may be taken for absences resulting from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking that affect the employee or the employee’s qualifying family members.

The Ordinance requires the city manager to adopt administrative rules that will further define allowable uses for Eugene Sick Leave, recordkeeping and notice requirements, and enforcement protocols. Administrative rules are scheduled to be published in January 2015.

How the Ordinance is to be reconciled with Lane County’s more recent ban on city regulation of sick leave is yet to be resolved.

Employers potentially covered by the new requirements should review their existing policies carefully. While employers providing leave entitlements equal to or greater than Eugene’s new requirements may be exempted from providing additional leave, that exemption applies only if the existing policies are co-extensive with the new requirements. Consequently, many employers will need to modify their policies and may need to negotiate changes in collective bargaining agreements to integrate the new requirements.

Mei Fung So contributed to this article.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2020National Law Review, Volume IV, Number 239

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Scott Oborne is a Principal in the Portland, Oregon, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Mr. Oborne began his career in the firm's Chicago, Illinois, office and practiced for five years in the San Francisco, California, office before moving to Portland to open the new Jackson Lewis office dedicated to Oregon clients.

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Bryan P. O’Connor is the Office Managing Principal in the Seattle, Washington, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He has practiced labor and employment law his entire legal career.

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