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June 15 — Oregon's lawmakers passed a bill June 12 providing paid time off for employees who are sick or must care for ill family members.
S.B. 454 passed on a largely party-line vote with the support of Democratic majorities in both legislative bodies. The state's Democratic governor is expected to sign the bill, which means Oregon would join Connecticut, California and Massachusetts in enacting sick leave legislation.
The measure requires employers with at least 10 workers to give employees up to 40 hours of paid sick time annually accrued at the rate of least one hour for every 30 hours worked. Employers with fewer than 10 workers are required to have an unpaid sick leave policy that accrues at the same rate.
The bill instructs the Bureau of Labor and Industries to adopt rules saying workers become eligible to use sick time on their 91st day of employment or earlier if an employer so chooses. Employees paid on a commission or piece-rate basis without an established rate of pay shall accrue and be paid sick leave at least at the state minimum wage rate.
“Keeping people who are contagious out of the workplace is good public health policy because it prevents spread of disease to other employees and customers,” Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward (D) told Bloomberg BNA in a telephone interview June 15.
Steiner Hayward—a prime sponsor of the bill and a family practice physician—added that the sick leave policy will improve employee retention because when people can take sick leave legitimately, they're more likely to stay in their jobs. She cited other benefits such as reducing the costs to business of employee recruitment and training as well as improving employee morale.
Republicans in the House cast a unanimous vote against the measure with their caucus, calling the proposal in a June 12 statement “flawed and disproportionately burdensome on Oregon's natural resource and agriculture industries.”
House Republican Leader Mike McLane said in the same statement, “Passing this flawed mandate in such a partisan fashion is one of the more troubling choices the Legislature has made this session.”
Steiner Hayward, however, said passage of the bill is a matter of economic justice. “I would argue that this law is analogous to the mandatory minimum wage in terms of providing economic self-sufficiency for families,” she said.
Provisions in the bill leave intact a municipal sick leave ordinance passed by Portland in 2013.
The measure mandates that employers with six or more employees give one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.
S.B. 454 passed the Senate June 10 by a 17-13 vote and the House June 12 on a vote of 33-24.
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Text of the measure is available at http://op.bna.com/dlrcases.nsf/r?Open=cscz-9xhs7r .
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