Stephen Hamway
The Bulletin

Senate Bill 454 highlights

• Employers with 10 or more employees in the state outside the city of Portland must pay employees for sick time taken at the employee’s regular rate of pay. In Portland, the requirement is for those with six or more.

• Employees begin accruing sick time on the first day of employment and earn one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked or 11⁄3 hours for every 40 hours worked.

• Sick leave may be taken for a variety of reasons, including the mental or physical health of an employee or employee’s family member, infant care or for certain public health emergencies.

• Employers are required to provide quarterly notifications to employees of the amounts of accrued and unused sick time.

For the full text of the bill, visit https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2015R1/Measures/Overview/SB454

Source: Senate Bill 454

On Jan. 1, Oregon became the fourth state in the country to require large and medium-sized employers to provide paid sick leave. But concerns about the law have largely not emerged through the first few weeks, and employers in Central Oregon have taken a wait-and-see approach.

Senate Bill 454, signed by Gov. Kate Brown in June, requires businesses with more than 10 employees in the state to offer paid sick leave. Oregon is the fourth full state to offer a similar bill, behind California, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Oregon’s bill went into effect at the beginning of the year, but Brad Avakian, Oregon labor commissioner, said the first year constitutes an easing period, with no civil penalties attached for employers that don’t offer paid leave.

“We see this as a year to make sure businesses and employees are fully informed,” Avakian said.

The Bureau of Labor and Industries’ Wage and Hour Division established a system for employees to issue formal complaints about employers. The first two weeks featured three complaints, according to Christine Hammond, deputy commissioner for the division. None of the complaints was aimed at companies based in Central Oregon.

While the bill takes effect everywhere in the state except Portland, which has separate sick-leave requirements that were grandfathered into the system, Bend may feel the effects more directly than other cities.

Bob Bussel, director and professor for the Labor Education and Research Center at the University of Oregon, said the state’s leisure and hospitality industry typically has fewer firms that offered sick leave compared to other industries. He added that lower average wages and more seasonal employees were two of the factors behind the trend.

Nearly 18 percent of Deschutes County workers employed by private companies worked in the leisure and hospitality industry during the third quarter of 2015, according to state figures, compared to less than 13 percent in Oregon overall.

Despite that, Tim Casey, president and CEO of the Bend Chamber of Commerce, said most of the companies the organization works with already offered sick leave when the law took effect.

Scott Reynolds, manager for All-Star Labor and Staffing LLC, said the agency helps around 250 companies in Central Oregon hire temporary labor from a pool of around 1,500 employees, some of whom work for All-Star. He said All-Star did not offer sick leave before the law took effect, but well over half its partner companies did.

Reynolds and Bussel both said that, with Deschutes County’s unemployment rate falling over the last few years, the market encouraged employers to add sick leave and other benefits to stay competitive.

“A tighter labor market tends to give workers more bargaining power,” Bussel said.

In the short term, most of the challenges come from informing employers and employees about the new law. The Bureau of Labor Industries set up more than 30 seminars across the state for employers to learn about the bill. The two in Bend, which will be held on Feb. 25 in the morning and afternoon, have 23 total attendees so far, according to Hammond.

“It’s going to take time as far as companies being aware of it,” Bussel added.

— Reporter: 541-617-7818, shamway@bendbulletin.com

12245096