Governor Kitzhaber last week signed House Bill 2950 ("HB 2950"), which expands the Oregon Family Leave Act ("OFLA") to include bereavement leave.  The change will become effective on January 1, 2014.

Under the new law, an OFLA-eligible employee (who works for OFLA-covered employer) may take up to two weeks of leave for three death-related purposes:  attending the funeral or alternative to a funeral of a family member; making arrangements necessitated by the death of the family member; or grieving the death of the family member.  The law incorporates the existing definition of “family member,” meaning that an employee make take the leave for the death of a spouse, same sex domestic partner, parent, parents-in-law (including the parents of same-sex domestic partners), grandparent, grandchild, child, stepchild, or child of the employee’s same sex domestic partner. 

The eligible employee must provide notice of the leave, but unlike other kinds of OFLA leave, the employer may not reduce the 2-week leave entitlement for failure to timely provide notice.  The leave must be completed within 60 days of the date on which the employee receives notice of the death. 

There are a couple of additional quirks in the new law.  An employer may not require the eligible employee to take multiple periods of leave concurrently if more than one family member dies during the one-year leave period.  In other words, if an employee has the misfortune to lose two family members in rapid succession, the employer cannot require that the employee take bereavement leave for multiple deaths concurrently.  In addition, the general prohibitions against family members who work for the same employer taking concurrent leave does not apply to bereavement leave; spouses or same sex domestic partners who work for the same employer may take concurrent bereavement leave.

Employers should start preparing now by reviewing and updating their handbooks and leave policies to be ready to comply with the new law when it becomes effective in January.