As Oregon’s April 2022 snowstorm becomes a distant memory, it’s time for some spring cleaning of employer leave policies. There are two recent changes that may require updates to your employee handbook. 

Oregon Paid Sick Leave—Expanded to Account for Evacuation Orders, Poor Air Quality, and Heat. 

BOLI recently adopted, effective April 1, 2022, a rule that makes permanent a temporary rule allowing employees to use paid sick leave due to dangers posed by the weather. Under the permanent rule, employees (other than first responders) may use Oregon paid sick leave in the case of either:

  • A level 2 (“SET”) or 3 (“GO”) emergency evacuation order—for example, in the case of a wildfire—that applies to either (1) the employer’s place of business, or (2) the employee’s home address; or
  • An authorized determination that the air quality or heat index is at a level at which exposure would jeopardize the health of the employee.

While an evacuation order could affect any Oregon employer, the air quality/heat index protections seem to be geared towards outdoor workers—where working could be dangerous due to the air quality or heat—and likely would not apply to those working indoors in an air-conditioned office in most circumstances. Employers should update their paid sick leave policies accordingly. 

Oregon Family Medical Leave—180-Day Length of Service Requirement is Back in Effect 

Last year, as part of its efforts to address the COVID-related public health emergency, the Oregon legislature passed HB 2474, which—during the period of time covered by a public health emergency—allowed eligible employees of covered employers to take leave under the Oregon Family Leave Act (“OFLA”) if they had worked for the employer for at least 30 days, rather than the requisite 180 days.

With COVID-19 hospitalizations and case numbers dropping across Oregon, Governor Brown lifted Oregon’s public health emergency declaration, effective April 1, 2022. This means that employees must once again work at least 180 days before becoming eligible for leave under OFLA.

HB 2474 also provided that a temporary break in service of 180 days or fewer (for example, in the case of a temporary furlough or layoff) would not affect an employee’s eligibility for OFLA. That amendment to OFLA continues. OFLA-eligible employees who are terminated or removed from the schedule but return to service within 180 days remain eligible for OFLA on their return. Credit for days of employment prior to a break in service must also be restored to the employee if the employee is reemployed/returned to service within 180 days. Any leave taken in the prior leave year—including before the break in service—will continue to count against the employee’s leave entitlement.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. Like everyone, we are hoping for a wildfire-free and COVID-free summer.