Hint: If you have employees in Washington State, you need to be ready sooner than you think.
There are strong indications out of Salem that the upcoming session of the Oregon Legislature will see a bill regarding paid family and medical leave. The contours of such a bill are hazy and there is a lot we don’t know about how the leave would be funded and which employees it would cover. For hints on how Oregon may model its legislation, we can look at the Paid Family and Medical Leave Act passed in Washington in 2017 that begins implementation this year (for more detail on Washington's Leave Act, see the recent article by my colleague Rebecca Ok).
It is important to note that the Washington statute potentially impacts Oregon employers who have employees working in or out of Washington (such as working remotely from Washington). Collection of premiums kicked in for Washington employers on January 1, 2019 and reporting begins on April 1, 2019.
I predict our lawmakers will strive for alignment with the Washington statute since Oregon employers with Washington employees (and vice versa) will have some level of compliance to maintain. There are two key actions Oregon employers can take now that will be beneficial – regardless of how far the Oregon legislation progresses this session:
Gather employee wage and hour statistics. We already know that Washington employers must report to Washington's Employment Security Department all wages, hours worked, and other information regarding their Washington employees. Employee eligibility for leave under the plan is based, among other things, on hours worked by the employee during the qualifying period.
Research employer-run voluntary leave plans. While Washington’s program applies to nearly all its employers, there are limited exceptions. For instance, small employers do not have to pay the employer portion of the medical leave premium and may qualify for small business assistance. Large employers may be able to opt out of the state plan by operating their own voluntary plan. Employer-run voluntary plans must meet or exceed the law's requirements and be pre-approved by Washington's Employment Security Department.
Despite the uncertain form of Oregon's leave legislation, what we know for certain is that any paid family and medical leave law in Oregon will place financial and administrative burdens on employers while providing some employees with the right to paid leave and protections in regard to the taking of said leave. Employers should use what we’re already learning from the Washington statute to take the time now to analyze reporting, and revisit and refresh existing leave policies and procedures.