Starting in January 2014 employers located within the city of Portland who employ more than 6 workers are required to give their employees paid sick time off. The new law, called the Protected Sick Time Ordinance, states that for every 30 hours an employee works that employee will accrue one hour of paid sick leave. The employee can then use this time during the year. The employer must allow the employee to accrue this leave time for up to 40 hours per calendar year. The law only applies to employees who have worked at least 240 hours within the city of Portland’s boundaries. The sick leave can be used to treat an employee’s own mental or physical health condition or the health condition of a family member. No proof of illness such as a doctor’s note is required in order for the employee to take the sick leave time. According to the city of Portland the purpose of the ordinance is “to mitigate the spread of disease and to allow employees to care for themselves and family members, making Portland a healthier, more productive community.”
Protected leave laws have been in existence at the state and federal level for decades. The main difference between these laws and the Portland ordinance is that the Portland law provides that most employers must pay the employee while he or she is on leave. While both the Oregon Family Leave Act and Family Medical Leave Act require covered employers to provide leave for serious health conditions to eligible employees, they do not require that the leave be paid.
Another difference between Portland’s protected sick time law and FMLA/OFLA is that the Portland ordinance does not require proof of a ‘serious health condition’ in order to take the time off. The Portland ordinance’s sick leave time can be used for a simple head cold or mild illness while OFLA and FMLA leave are designed to protect employees or their family members who have suffered from a serious mental or physical health issue. In short, Portland’s new sick time ordinance is a more liberal leave law and more favorable to employees than most other leave laws in the United States. Employers should know the law so they can comply with it. Employees should know it so they can assert their rights under it.