All businessses in Portland must provide sick leave for employees who work over 240 hours in a calendar year.
The Portland City Council voted unanimously to enact standards requiring all businesses to provide Protected Sick Leave for employees who work more than 240 hours in a calendar year within the city of Portland. Businesses with 6 or more employees will have to provide up to 40 hours of paid Sick Leave annually, earned at one hour of Sick Time per thirty hours worked. Smaller businesses will be required to allow employees to earn and take up to 40 hours a year of unpaid leave without fear of being fired for missing work, due to personal health care needs, safety from domestic violence, or caring for a sick child. The ordinance will take effect on January 1, 2014.
"This is a public health issue," said Commissioner Amanda Fritz, a retired Registered Nurse who crafted the ordinance. "Diligent employees should not have to choose between paying the rent and going to work with the flu, potentially infecting coworkers and customers." While there will be some impact to employers, Fritz asserts the ordinance is necessary, and ultimately good business practice. Employees who work while ill lower productivity in the entire workplace, and sick children sent to school because their parents can't stay home with them often infect classmates and teachers.
Portland's ordinance differs from those enacted in Seattle and San Francisco in that it does not allow exemptions based on collective bargaining agreements with unions. Fritz stated that all employees need permission and access for Sick Leave, even those who are well paid and recipients of other benefits such as health care. This means that grocery workers in Portland who currently cannot use paid Sick Time until the third day of a health-related absence will be allowed to stay home with pay on the first day of an illness. The ordinance does allow Paid Time Off policies that are substantially equal to or better than the City's standards, to count as Sick Time.
A broad coalition of community advocates led by Andrea Paluso of Family Forward Oregon pushed for the ordinance. Bills to require statewide Sick Leave—similar to Portland's new Code—are under consideration by the Oregon State Legislature as HB 3390 and SB 801. Commissioner Fritz stated that if the Legislature acts this session, she will review with the other members of the Portland City Council whether to move forward with implementing local Portland standards.
"The more workers who are covered by this common sense standard, the better," she said. "It's not fair that Portland workers should be entitled to a benefit that Medford workers are not. If the Oregon State Legislature acts this session, this Portland ordinance will be another step towards enacting federal Protected Sick Leave legislation, and our local Code may not be needed as stand-alone regulations." She added that if the Legislature fails to act, or adopts standards that are significantly weaker than Portland's, she will spend the summer working with City staff and community stakeholders to devise Administrative Rules for implementation of Portland's standards on January 1, 2014.
News release: City of Portland