July 24, 2021

Volume XI, Number 205

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Oregon Updates and Expands the Oregon Family Leave Act

On June 8, 2021, Governor Kate Brown signed into law House Bill (HB) 2474, amending the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) to update and expand the law’s eligibility and leave provisions. The amendments give eligibility to take leave to employees reemployed after a separation or returning after a temporary work cessation within 180 days, expand eligibility and leave entitlements during public health emergencies, and remove gendered language. The OFLA amendments take effect on January 1, 2022. Oregon employers covered by OFLA may want to update their OFLA policies and forms to comply with the new requirements by that date.

Eligibility for Reemployed and Returning Employees

Under the current eligibility criteria, Oregon employees who work for an employer with at least 25 employees in Oregon are eligible to take OFLA leave if the employer has employed them for at least 180 days immediately before the leave begins. In addition, for OFLA-qualifying reasons other than parental leave, employees must have “worked an average of at least 25 hours per week” during the 180 days immediately before the leave begins to be eligible. The current law does not provide for any credit for prior service to employees reemployed or returning after a break in service.

The new OFLA amendments make employees reemployed after a separation from employment or returning from work after a temporary cessation of scheduled work hours, within 180 days eligible for leave in the following circumstances.

  • Employees reemployed or returning within 180 days who were eligible for OFLA leave (based on the current eligibility criteria described above) at the time of their separation from employment or the beginning of their temporary cessation of work will be eligible to take OFLA leave immediately upon reemployment or return.

  • Employees reemployed or returning within 180 days who were not yet eligible for OFLA leave (based on the current eligibility criteria described above) at the time of their separation from employment or the beginning of their temporary cessation of work will receive credit for time worked for the employer prior to the break in service for the purpose of establishing eligibility.

Employees reemployed or who return to work after a separation or temporary cessation of scheduled hours of more than 180 days must still reestablish eligibility for OFLA leave anew and will not receive credit for prior service.

The amendments also provide that any OFLA leave taken by an employee who has been reemployed or who has returned to work “within any one-year period [will] continue[] to count” toward the employee’s OFLA leave entitlement.

Expanded Eligibility During Periods of Public Health Emergency

The amendments also expand eligibility to take OFLA leave for any qualifying reason during a period of public health emergency to all employees of a covered employer if:

  • the employer has employed them for at least 30 days immediately before the leave begins; and
  • they worked an average of at least 25 hours per week during the 30 days immediately preceding the leave.

For purposes of OFLA leave, “public health emergency” means a public health emergency declared under Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) 433.441, or an emergency declared under ORS 401.165, if related to a public health emergency as defined in ORS 433.442.

Expanded Reasons for Leave Due to Public Health Emergency

The amendments further codify recent rule changes by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), expanding the list of qualifying OFLA reasons to include leave to care for a child of the employee “who requires home care due to the closure of the child’s school or child care provider as a result of a public health emergency.” The OFLA amendments do not define “child care provider” or “closure,” but the recent changes to the BOLI rules include definitions of those terms.

The OFLA amendments expressly codify the recent BOLI rule providing that employers may not require employees to provide medical verification of the need for leave for this reason, although employers may request other verification, including:

  • “[t]he name of the child requiring home care”;

  • “[t]he name of the school or child care provider that is subject to closure”;

  • “[a] statement from the employee that no other family member of the child is willing and able to care for the child”; and

  • “[a] statement that special circumstances exist that require the employee to provide home care for the child during the day, if the child is older than 14 years of age.”

Elimination of Gendered Language

Finally, the OFLA amendments remove gendered language from the statutory provisions related to pregnancy and childbirth-related leave—which previously referred only to female employees—clarifying that any eligible employee may take OFLA leave for an illness, injury, or condition related to the employee’s own pregnancy or childbirth, without regard to gender.

© 2021, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 167
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About this Author

Kelly Riggs, employment law attorney, Ogletree
Associate

Kelly Riggs is an associate in the Portland office and represents public and private employers of all sizes in all aspects of employment-related litigation.  She has represented employers in federal and state courts, as well as before the EEOC, BOLI, and other state and federal agencies, and in private mediations and arbitrations, including defending claims of discrimination and harassment, retaliation and whistleblowing, public accommodations, unfair competition, breach of contract, and other common law claims.  Kelly also regularly advises employers on compliance with federal and state...

503-552-2140
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