Editorial: Death of a family member warrants leave

Published Jun 5, 2013 at 05:00AM

Oregon is well on its way to giving many employees in the state the right to take up to two weeks off in the wake of the death of a family member. A bill expanding the Oregon Family Leave Act has been approved by both houses of the Legislature, though the House of Representatives still must approve changes made in the Senate.

The Oregon Family Leave Act now allows workers in companies of more than 25 employees to take as much as 12 weeks of unpaid leave a year to care for a child or seriously ill family member or to recuperate from a serious health problem.

House Bill 2950 will add bereavement of a close family member to the list. The two weeks allotted under the bill must be completed within 60 days of the death of the family member.

Though we’re generally not comfortable with the state telling employers when they must give their employees time off, this situation is different.

The Oregon Family Leave Act has been law since 1995; it was approved two years after the federal Family and Medical Leave Act became law. In many ways it parallels the federal law.

We don’t doubt that there may be abuse of the Family Leave Act, either nationally or in Oregon. Some employees will find ways to take advantage of their employers with or without a law, and the family leave law gives them that opportunity.

In the end, however, we continue to believe that most workers and most bosses are not involved in a perpetual game of gotcha. Giving family members a couple of weeks to put things in order and grieve does not expand the amount of unpaid time that may be taken under the family leave law — it’s still 12 weeks — it simply adds bereavement to the list of reasons that leave may be taken. It’s a compassionate acknowledgement of the very real impact death has on a family.

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