Understanding Employee Rights Under Portland’s New Sick Time Law
In 2013, the Portland City Council voted unanimously to adopt a sick time ordinance to enable people to earn time off from work to care for their own and their family’s health. As with any new workplace law, it’s important that employees know it exists and understand how they are affected. Please share this information with anyone who may need to know!
Who is covered by the new sick time ordinance?
The Portland Sick Leave Ordinance applies to all employees who work within the geographic boundaries of the city of Portland for 240 hours or more in a calendar year. Some workers will earn paid sick time, others will earn unpaid sick time, depending on the number of employees where you work (see Question 3 for details).
When does the sick time ordinance take effect?
The ordinance is effective January 1, 2014. That is the date on which workers begin earning sick time while they work.
How much sick time will I earn?
Full- and part-time employees will accrue one hour of job-protected sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours per calendar year.
Is the sick time paid or unpaid?
Whether the time is paid or unpaid depends on the number of employees who work for your employer: the time is required to be paid by employers with six or more employees, and can be unpaid by employers with five or fewer employees.
What can sick time be used for?
If you have earned sick time, you can use it for your own health, to care for the health of a family member, or to address issues caused by domestic violence, sexual harassment, assault or stalking. This leave may be used in increments of one hour or greater (unless your employer allows for you to use smaller time increments). You may also use your earned sick time to cover all or part of a shift.
How long do I have to work for my employer before I am eligible to earn and use sick time?
You are eligible to take your accrued leave after working for your employer for at least 90 days, though you start accruing your sick leave the day you begin working for your employer (at any date on or afterJanuary 1, 2014).
Does the sick time ordinance apply to temporary employees?
The law applies to employees who work 240 hours or more in a year in Portland. Whether you’re termed “temporary” or not by your employer doesn’t matter, it’s the 240 hours worked per year in Portland that triggers the law.
What if I already earn sick time at work?
If your employer already allows you to accrue five or more paid sick days, Paid Time Off (PTO) or paid vacation days per year - that can be used without notice for the sick leave purposes in the new ordinance (see Question 5, above) – then your employer’s existing policy already meets the minimum requirement and this new policy will not affect you.
Can employers do better than the ordinance requires?
Absolutely. This ordinance sets a minimum floor that they cannot drop below. It does not establish a ceiling, so, for example, small employers can offer paid leave when unpaid is what’s required or they can offer more unpaid leave than the minimum required. Larger employers can allow employees to accrue more than one hour of sick time per 30 hours worked, they can allow employees to use more than 40 hours of earned sick time in a calendar year, and they can also offer unpaid time beyond the required paid time.
Do employers track the hours of sick time accrued and used – or do I?
Your employer must track your accrual and usage of sick days, and their record keeping must remain consistent with current standards under state law. Keeping track yourself might be a good way to confirm.
Does the sick time accrue from year to year or pay out upon termination?
Unused, accrued sick time can roll over to a new year, but your employer is not required to allow you to take more than 40 hours of sick time in one calendar year. Your employer is not required to pay you for any unused sick time upon termination, resignation, retirement, or other separation from employment.
Does Paid Time Off (PTO) count as sick time?
Yes, if your employer already has a PTO policy in place that meets the minimum requirements of this policy (see above), then they are already in compliance and you will not receive any additional leave under this policy.
What if I work in Portland and other cities?
This law only covers those employees who work 240 hours or more in Portland. If you work in Portland (over 240 hours per year), your hours working in Portland will be counted toward your earned sick time. Any work outside of Portland will not count toward your earned sick time.
Are there rules about telling my employer I need to use my sick time?
Yes. Your employer is required to have a written policy or standard for you to use for using sick time. When leave is foreseeable (a scheduled doctor’s appointment, for example), you are required to contact your employer according to the requirements of their written policy to plan your leave. Where your leave is not foreseeable, you must contact your employer according to the written policy or standard of the organization.
Is a health care professional’s note required to take sick time?
Only in some cases. If you are absent for more than three consecutive days, your employer can require a note from a licensed health care provider before any paid or unpaid sick leave is approved. However, under existing Oregon law your employer would be required to pay the costs associated with procuring the note. As an alternative, your employer can require you to submit a signed personal statement that the leave was for a purpose covered by the ordinance.
What safeguards are there against my employer preventing me from taking it?
Safeguards for employees are incorporated into the ordinance, and include:
- Shift trading is allowed if it is mutually agreed upon by you and your employer and takes place in the same or next pay period. However, your employer may not require you to find a replacement as a condition for taking the sick time.
- Your employer cannot require you to work an alternate shift to make up for using your earned sick time.
- Employees will earn job-protected sick leave, which means it is illegal for your employer to fire or retaliate against you for taking the sick time you have earned.
- You may lodge a complaint with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries if you think your employer is:
- not allowing you to take the earned sick leave you have accrued under this law,
- retaliating against you or discriminating against you for taking accrued sick time
- not paying you for time you’ve accrued, and/or
- providing unreasonable protocols around requesting leave or giving notice.
How do I file a complaint with BOLI?
To find BOLI Contact information and instructions for reporting a violation of the Portland Protected Sick Time Ordinance, See BOLI's Instructions for Filing a Complaint: http://www.oregon.gov/boli/WHD/PDX_Sick_Time/Pages/Instructions-for-filing-a-PDX-Complaint.aspx