Portland, Oregon, latest to adopt mandatory sick leave law

by Calvin L. Keith

Portland, Oregon, has become just the fourth U.S. city to require that employers provide sick leave. The new ordinance goes into effect January 1, 2014. Here is a brief summary.

Who is covered?

Any employee who works more than 240 hours per year in Portland is covered. The law includes anyone who travels to Portland to work, who works in an office in Portland, or who makes a stop in the city. Employees can use Portland sick time (PST) only for work in Portland. The employer doesn’t need to be based in Portland or in Oregon for the coverage to apply.

Required sick time

Employers with five or fewer employees will be required to provide one hour of unpaid PST for every 30 hours worked. Employers with six or more employees will be required to provide one hour of paid PST for every 30 hours worked.

Employees can accrue 40 hours of PST per year. They can carry the time over, but the total bank can’t exceed 40 hours in a calendar year.

Accrued but unused PST doesn’t need to be paid upon termination, but employees must be allowed to carry PST over to their new employer if the business is purchased and the employee continues to work in Portland.

Safe harbor

Employers won’t be required to provide additional PST if the employer already provides time off such as sick time or paid time off at least equivalent to those provided under the Portland ordinance. Unionized employers can negotiate a waiver of rights under the ordinance as long as the collective bargaining agreement provides for paid time off that is at least equal to the requirements of the ordinance.

Use of time

Employees will accrue PST 90 days after they begin employment. Employees may use up to 40 hours of PST per year in one-hour increments. PST may be used for:

  • Treatment of mental or physical illnesses, injuries, or health conditions, including pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum care, and preventive medical care, of an employee or the employee’s family member;
  • Leave provided for domestic violence, harassment, sexual assault, or stalking under Oregon law; and
  • Leave required because the employer’s business or an employee’s child’s school or place of care closes for a public health emergency, a family member is determined to be a risk to the health of others and needs assistance, or the employer is required by state law or regulation to exclude the employee from the workplace for health reasons.


Employers may require verification of the need for leave in order to investigate a pattern of usage of unscheduled sick time. If an employee is absent for more than three consecutive days on PST, the employer can require documentation that the PST was used for one of the ordinance’s required purposes.

Calvin L. Keith manages the employment law practice in the Perkins Coie office in Portland, Oregon. He is the editor of Oregon Employment Law Letter and can be reached at