In what many employers will regard as a welcome change, on February 27, 2024, the Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 1515 (which Governor Tina Kotek is expected to sign into law right away) to eliminate many of the redundancies between the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) and Paid Leave Oregon (PLO) that have been the source of employers’ heartburn over compliance issues the past several months. Notably, this bill eliminates most (but not all) sources of duplicative coverage for the same qualifying events; and clarifies concurrency issues, including how employees can use other accrued paid time off benefits while receiving PLO benefits.

With a few exceptions (noted below), most changes take effect July 1.

Big Changes to OFLA

In an effort to eliminate duplicate coverage of the same conditions, and thus the possibility of “leave stacking,” SB 1515 significantly curtails the types of leave available under OFLA, effective July 1:

  • OFLA will provide up to 12 weeks of protected, unpaid family leave only for the following purposes:
    • to care for a child who requires home care due to an illness, injury, or condition (whether or not it is a serious health condition), or due to the closure of the child’s school or child care provider because of a public health emergency; and
    • bereavement leave related to the death of a family member, up to 2 weeks per death and a maximum of 4 weeks per year (which counts toward the 12-week entitlement).
  • Temporarily from July 1 through December 31, 2024, OFLA will provide up to 2 additional weeks of unpaid leave per one-year benefit period “to effectuate the legal process required for placement of a foster child or the adoption of a child.” (Thereafter, leave for this purpose will covered by PLO.)
  • In addition, an employee may still take an additional 12 weeks of unpaid OFLA leave within any one-year benefit period for the employee’s own illness, injury, or condition related to pregnancy or childbirth that disables the employee from performing any available job duties. This is in addition to other leave available under OFLA and PLO.
  • However, OFLA will no longer cover leave for a worker’s own serious health conditions, to care for a family member with a serious health condition, or to bond with a new child (parental leave). Leave for those purposes will be covered by PLO only.
  • All OFLA leave will be in addition to, and will not run concurrently with, PLO benefits. This change clears up current questions regarding leave-stacking, and states the new rule unequivocally.
  • As a reminder, last year the Oregon legislature passed a law that requires employers to change their OFLA leave year to align with the PLO benefit year by no later than July 1, 2024.

Smaller Changes to Paid Leave Oregon

  • Employees are still eligible for up to 12 weeks of PLO per benefit year for any of the following purposes, in any combination: family leave (including parental leave), medical leave, or safe leave.
  • Employees also remain eligible for 2 additional weeks of PLO for limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition, for a total of 14 paid weeks per benefit year.
  • Effective January 1, 2025, family leave under PLO will also cover leave taken “to effectuate the legal process required for placement of a foster child or the adoption of a child.”
  • More importantly, the bill clarifies how and when employees may use accrued paid time off to supplement their PLO benefits. It states unequivocally that:
    • Employers must allow staff the choice to use any accrued leave to supplement their PLO benefits to the extent that the total combined amount does not exceed full wage replacement.
    • An Employer may permit, via employer policy, workers to use accrued leave up to the full number of missed hours, such that they take home more than full wage replacement. Some companies may find it easier to allow staff to use accrued paid time off during PLO without limiting the combined amount, even if it results in more than full wage replacement.
    • Employers, via policy or collective bargaining agreement, can establish the particular order in which accrued leave is to be used when more than one leave type is available.
  • Other changes and clarifications to PLO include:
    • Clarifying that employees on workers’ compensation are not eligible for PLO in a week they receive time loss benefits (but are still eligible if they are only receiving medical payments);
    • Providing that PLO benefits may only be garnisheed for child/spousal support and crime restitution payments; and
    • Providing an exception to the additional compensation requirements under Oregon’s separate predictive scheduling law for short-notice schedule changes that result from an employer receiving fewer than 14 days’ notice of an employee’s first day of PLO, or return from PLO.

BOLI Amendments to OFLA, PLO, and Sick Leave Regulations

Notably, a few days after the House passed SB 1515, on March 1 BOLI issued amendments to several of its OFLA, PLO, and sick leave regulations to align with the previous round of statutory changes to OFLA and PLO passed by the legislature last year. Those amendments took effect March 2, 2024, but do not reflect the latest changes to OFLA and PLO under SB 1515, and BOLI will have to amend its regulations further in the coming months.

In the meantime, the March 1 amendments align the regulations with the currently applicable OFLA and PLO statutes more effectively. In particular, BOLI clarified its position that under the current OFLA/PLO scheme through the end of June, when an eligible employee takes leave under OFLA that also qualifies under Paid Leave Oregon, the employee “is entitled to use any paid accrued sick leave or any paid accrued vacation leave during the period of family leave, or to use any other paid leave that is offered by the employer in lieu of vacation leave during the period of family leave.” In other words, they are entitled to more than full wage replacement, at least through June 30, 2024.

Next Steps

In response to these changes, employers may need to review and revise their leave policies—again (!!!)—update any leave-tracking systems, inform employees about these upcoming changes, and watch for revised posters and further clarifications of the rules. As the Employment Department and BOLI continue to work on coordinating their respective interpretations and responsibilities under leave programs, further clarifications are likely. Before relying on any legal information of a general nature, please consult legal counsel as to your particular situation.

This article summarizes aspects of the law and does not constitute legal advice. For legal advice for your situation, you should contact an attorney.

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