Starting January 1, 2016 workers across Oregon will have access to protected sick time at work. The Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 454 during the 2015 legislative session, which ensured that people working in Oregon will be able to earn one hour of sick time for every thirty hours they work up to a minimum of 40 hours per year (or fifty-six hours in some limited cases).
For those working for employers with ten or more employees (or six or more employees if located in Portland) the accrued sick time should be paid at an employee’s regular rate of pay. For those working for employers with nine or fewer employees (or five or fewer employees if located in Portland), the employer may choose if the time offered is paid or unpaid.
All sick time provided under this law – whether paid or unpaid – must be job-protected, which means an employee cannot be fired, penalized or discriminated against for using accrued sick time for qualifying purposes.
Paid or unpaid sick time can be used for the diagnosis, care or treatment of the worker or a member of their family. It can also be used for instances of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
“This is a historic moment for the hundreds of thousands of workers across our state who will now have access to sick time where they work,” said Andrea Paluso, Everybody Benefits Coalition Chair and Family Forward oregon’s executive director. “Everyone should be afforded the dignity that comes with being able to stay home to recover from illness or to care for a sick child without risking your job or the income your family relies upon.”
In 2012, the Everybody Benefits Coalition set out to win paid sick time for workers throughout Oregon. The coalition has organized in communities across the state to give a voice to working Oregonians without access to this basic workplace protection. Everybody Benefits supported the passage of laws in the Cities of Portland and Eugene in 2013 and 2014, and worked to ensure the passage of a statewide law in 2015.
Many of the people who will now, for the first time, have access to paid sick time work in retail, restaurants, child care and agriculture. These are industries with high concentrations of low-wage workers who are the least likely to be able to make ends meet when they experience loss of income or job loss due to illness.
“This law will have huge impacts on farm workers across the state,” said Ramon Ramirez with the farm-worker organization PCUN. “The people working to ensure we have food on our tables should also be able to feed their own families and not risk losing their job when they are sick. It’s not right that so many hard-working people in the agriculture industry have been left out of most other major labor protections. I’m glad to see Oregon standing up for these workers by ensuring they also have access to protected sick time under the law.”
People working in industries commonly lacking sick time also tend to have regular contact with the public, which presents public health concerns. “The public health implications of this law are huge,” said Cheryl Brewer, a Eugene area nurse. The best way to prevent the spread of disease is to ensure that more workers, especially those working with the public or with our food, can stay home when they are sick to recover. Equally important is a parent’s ability to keep a sick child home from school, so they don’t spread an illness to other children.”
“Healthy workers are more productive workers,” said Eric Mims, Main Street Alliance member and owner of the Slingshot Lounge in Portland. “Sick days save employers money by reducing turnover and makes their employees feel valued. When my employees feel valued, they work harder. This policy is a win-win for Oregon’s working families and our economy.”
More information about Oreogn’s Sick Leave Law can be found here: http://www.oregon.gov/boli/WHD/OST/pages/index.aspx