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Paid Sick Leave Law May Be in the Offing for Portland, Oregon Employers

  • January 22, 2013

The City of Portland is considering an ordinance mandating that protected sick leave rights be extended to virtually all employees in the City. If passed, Oregon private-sector employers would join those in San Francisco, California, and Washington, D.C., in being required to provide employees with a minimum number of paid sick days each year. The proposed ordinance’s effect would be far reaching, potentially granting new sick leave rights to 40 percent of Portland’s workforce and creating new compliance requirements for private-sector employers with Portland operations.

Proposed Coverage

Under the proposed ordinance, small businesses would be required to provide employees, whether full- or part-time, who work in Portland more than 240 hours in a calendar year with up to 40 hours of unpaid sick leave per year. Employers with at least six employees would be required to provide employees 40 hours of paid sick leave per year. Accrual of hours would begin at the commencement of employment, but sick days could not be used until an employee had accumulated eight hours of leave. The ordinance also allows employees to carry over 40 hours of sick leave per year, and retain accrued time even if they are transferred to another location.

Employers that already offer equal or more favorable leave benefits would not be required to provide additional time off. However, all employers with employees working within the geographic boundaries of Portland presumably would be subject to the ordinance’s remaining provisions, including its posting requirements and prohibition on retaliation.

Reasons for Leave

The proposed law would permit leave for an employee’s own mental or physical illness, including pregnancy, childbirth, and preventive medical care. Employees also could use sick leave to provide care for a covered family member with an illness, injury or medical appointment. Additionally, employees would be entitled to use sick leave to seek legal assistance, medical treatment, or obtain professional services related to domestic violence, harassment, sexual assault or stalking. Finally, the ordinance would allow employees to use time off during the closing of a school attended by their children or the employees’ place of business due to a public health emergency. 

Procedural Obligations

The ordinance would impose procedural obligations on both employers and employees. Employers would be required to provide notice of employees’ entitlement to paid sick time. Employers would be prohibited from requiring employees to locate a replacement worker as a condition to using accrued sick time. Employers also would be prohibited from requiring employees to provide verification, such as a doctor’s note, for absences of fewer than three days, absent some indication of “patterns of abuse.” Finally, the ordinance would make it unlawful for an employer to interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of sick leave rights.

Employees would be required to provide reasonable notice of the need to use paid sick time. Where the need is foreseeable, employees must provide advance notice “as soon as possible.” Where the need is not foreseeable, employees would be required to provide notice as soon as practicable. Employees also may be required to provide a signed personal statement indicating leave was for a qualifying absence.

Exclusions would apply to certain employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement. 

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The proposed law is pending before the Portland City Council, which is scheduled to hear public comments on January 23, 2013. If passed, the new ordinance would take effect January 1, 2014. Jackson Lewis is monitoring the legislative process and will keep you apprised of the ordinance’s status. Please contact the Jackson Lewis attorney with whom you normally work with questions or to assist with compliance and implementation strategies.

©2013 Jackson Lewis P.C. This material is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice nor does it create a client-lawyer relationship between Jackson Lewis and any recipient. Recipients should consult with counsel before taking any actions based on the information contained within this material. This material may be considered attorney advertising in some jurisdictions. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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