Article by Dillon Clair, Retirement and Compensation Policy Associate
On the last day of the state legislative session, the Oregon Senate reconvened and passed HB 2005, establishing a state paid family and medical leave insurance program. The program provides eligible Oregon employees access to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave per year and an additional four weeks of unpaid family and medical leave that can be taken under either current state law or the federal FMLA. All available unpaid leave – provided under the FMLA or state law - aside from these four weeks shall run concurrently with leave taken under the new paid leave program. Employees may also qualify for an additional two weeks of leave for limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition. The program will be funded jointly by employees and employers, with employers responsible for 40 percent of the total contribution rate and employees responsible for the remaining 60 percent, unless an employer is granted an exemption from contribution requirements as described below.
This bill is greatly improved from previously introduced legislation and contains several major improvements that were recommend by ERIC. The first of these is the reduction of the total duration of paid leave that could be taken in a calendar year from the originally proposed 32 weeks to the current 12-week cap. Second, state preemption language was included in Section 61 of the bill, effectively precluding local and municipal governments from enacting any ordinances or rules related to paid family and medical leave. Additionally, Section 43 of the bill creates a program exemption for employers who have had their employer-provided plans approved by the Director of the Employment Department, providing critical flexibility for employers to design and administer paid leave benefits tailored to the needs of their workforce.
Unfortunately, HB 2005 maintains some issues that ERIC recommended against. One is the expansive definition of family member included in the bill, which exceeds the FMLA standards to include “any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with a covered individual is the equivalent of a family relationship”. This catch-all phrase has also been included in paid leave legislation recently passed in both New Jersey and Connecticut and could give rise to serious administrative issues if the expansive definition is exploited by beneficiaries. This indefinite definition is one of ERIC’s primary paid leave priorities moving forward, and we will be working with regulators in New Jersey, Connecticut, and Oregon to limit its reach.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding this bill, or other paid leave legislation, please do not hesitate to contact me.