HR Management & Compliance

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

4 thoughts on “Portland, Oregon, latest to adopt mandatory sick leave law”

  1. This will kill the employment rate in Portland. Multnomah county is alredy losing business to the increase in taxes and now this added business cost will push business out even more. I already don’t understand why anyone wants to have a business in the county that charges ridiculous rates.

  2. So what portland is telling me is that if I work 4.615 hours per week I am entitled to sick leave… I would think that if I only worked 4.615 hours each week I could tough it out and make it through my grulling all day shift… But I guess that doesn’t help people who don’t want to work.

  3. The mayor must be proud to add this burden to small businesses. I expect the only ones that will make out on this deal are employees who use sick leave as an extension of vacation opportunities.

  4. Really you all are worried about companies losing money! What about the employee that toke there vacation earlier in the year and then gets sick! They just don’t get paid? I think that you all should try to take 3 or more days off unpaid then try to pay your bills! Oh wait I forgot to tell you you only make 9.25 per hour. Rent is due and the power will be late if not paid. Oh wait there is just another late fee. Well I as one those in that boat will say! Thank you for making a few less people end up on food stamps/public assistance and homeless due to an employer that could care less as we are just a number on the payroll books costing them money. Instead of an employee trying to get well to make them more money. And just get by in life. Clearly all the people that are upset about this can’t understand how to live with out a huge income.

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