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Employee Paid Leave Benefits in Oregon May (Or May Not) Be Delayed Further



As most Oregon employers are well aware by now, Oregon’s paid family and medical leave program, known as Paid Leave Oregon, is now underway—at least in part. Paid Leave Oregon is a mandatory statewide insurance program that provides qualifying employees with state wage replacement benefits for time off from work needed to give or receive care. See our prior article here. These benefits are funded by premiums deducted from employees’ wages, with contributions from “large employers” (those with 25 or more employees working within or outside Oregon), and are administered by the Oregon Employment Department (OED).

As of January 1, 2023, employers with Oregon employees are required to inform employees about these benefits, and begin deducting the required withholdings, as well as make any applicable contributions. After implementation of the program was initially delayed a year, the start date for leave benefits to be available to employees was pushed back to September 3, 2023. Last week, however, Oregon Governor Tina Kotek signed a bill that will give OED until August 11th, to decide if sufficient funding has been received to begin paying out these benefits to eligible employees beginning in September. If OED elects to delay benefit implementation, benefits may not be available to employees until December at the earliest, or even later. The bill gives the OED discretion to determine solvency of the program quarterly thereafter until it determines benefits have been sufficiently funded, and benefit payments may commence. It also requires OED to provide not less than 30 days’ notice to employers and other covered individuals before payments start.

Once available, these paid leave benefits will provide virtually all employees in Oregon with partial wage replacement benefits for up to 12 weeks in the event of the birth/adoption/foster placement of a child, when the employee is seriously ill or needed to care for an ill family member, or when leave is needed due to domestic violence, sexual assault, harassment or stalking (this latter category is known as “safe leave”). In some pregnancy-related situations, up to 14 weeks may be available.

The actual amount of weekly benefits will be determined by OED based on the individual’s average wages from the previous year. For 2023 (if benefits are paid in 2023), the minimum weekly amount will be $61.24, and the maximum weekly amount will be $1,469.78. Minimum and maximum amounts will change each year as they are based on the state average weekly wage, which is updated every year on July 1st.

There is additional legislation pending that may also address the alignment of Paid Leave Oregon with Oregon’s Family Leave Act (OFLA), which is (and will remain) unpaid leave, so there may be more changes to come. For now, employers should remain at the ready to update their leave policies and additional compliance strategies accordingly.

Additional information about Paid Leave Oregon, including helpful resources for employers, may be found here

The legal issues impacting this topic are and will continue to be ever-changing (Employment Law in Motion!), and since publication of this blog post, new or additional information not referenced in this blog post may be available.

This article is provided for informational purposes only—it does not constitute legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the firm and the reader. Readers should consult legal counsel before taking action relating to the subject matter of this article.

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