Quirky Question #217, Bereavement Leave in Colorado and Oregon


Quirky Question:

An employee in our Corporate Office recently informed Human Resources that she was requesting bereavement leave with respect to her sister’s death last month.  When she was informed of our company policy, that up to 3 days of paid time off may be taken to attend the funeral, she said her attorney friend told her a new law requires two weeks.  I’ve never heard of this law?

Dorsey’s Answer:

Colorado has not enacted a law requiring bereavement leave as of this date and the bills in Congress which would have added bereavement leave have not passed as of this date.  At the present, there is no legal requirement to provide such leave in Colorado.  However, effective January 1, 2014, Oregon became the first state to require employers with 25 or more employees working in Oregon to allow employees to take up to two weeks of unpaid leave within 60 days of the time the employee received notice of a family members death.  The leave may be taken to attend the funeral, make necessary arrangements or grieve the death of a family member. The Oregon Family Leave Act defines family member as: spouse, same sex domestic partner, child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent or grandchild or the same relations of an employee’s same sex partner or spouse,

The Oregon law has several provisions that are different from other leave requirements.  Prior notice to the employer (or approval) is not required but oral notice must be provided within 24 hours of commencing the leave.  Written notice must be given confirming the leave within three days of returning to work. However, failure to give notice is not a defense or reason to reduce the leave time.

Bereavement leave does count against an employee’s overall entitlement to leave under the Oregon Family Leave Act but not the federal FMLA.  Additional two week leaves may be taken in the event of additional qualifying deaths.

There are bills introduced every year in a Congress and a variety of states which propose expanding state and federal laws to make unpaid bereavement leave mandatory.  Check with your Dorsey employment attorney for updates.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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