What Is the Oregon Family Leave Act?

The Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) is a bill that protects workers that need to take time off for several reasons. The Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) protects employees of companies with 25 or more workers by allowing them protected leave. Workers may take time off to care for themselves or loved ones during:

  • Death
  • Injury
  • Illness
  • Birth
  • Adoption
  • Foster placement

Relationship of OFLA to FMLA

Any time off taken with a FMLA leave also falls under OFLA if an employee qualifies for an OFLA leave. Provisions of a worker's OFLA leave must be consistent with those of a FMLA leave. Employers should apply either leave, based what benefits the employee more.

Purposes of an OFLA Leave

Qualifying workers can take an OFLA during these situations:

  • Parental leave - for childbirth or adoption of a child or foster child placement of a child under 18
  • Serious health condition – the employees own or to help a loved one to recuperate from a serious illness
  • Pregnancy disability leave - when a woman is unable to perform job duties because of pregnancy at any point before or after childbirth
  • Sick child leave - for ill children that require care at home, but isn't considered a serious health condition
  • Bereavement leave - for employee's dealing with an impending family member's passing, funeral attendance, to make arrangements for funeral services, or to grieve a death

Length of Leave and Other Conditions of OFLA Leave

Qualifying employees can take up to 12 weeks in a 12-month time frame. Exceptions are as follows:

  • Female employees can take 12 weeks in the same 12-month period for pregnancy disability
  • Parents may take another 12 weeks for leave for a sick child in addition to parental leave
  • Women may take up to 36 weeks as 12 weeks pregnancy disability, 12 weeks parental leave, and 12 weeks sick child leave
  • Employees may take two weeks for each family member's passing in a 12-month time frame, not to exceed 12 weeks total

Two workers may take simultaneous leave if one employee must care for the other, one employee must care for a sick child while the other employee is out with a health condition, or both employees are out with a health condition.

Workers may take simultaneous leave for death of family members.

Parental leave must be completed in one period, unless intermittent leave is necessary for adoption of foster placement. Separate days to attend a birth followed by a later leave is acceptable.

Childbirth, adoption, or placement of more than one child only allows for one leave.

Workers using OFLA leave concerning workplace injury while waiting out workers' compensation may recoup that leave time once the claim is accepted. If the WC claim is denied then accepted, OFLA leave time is restored.

Companies can reduce OFLA leave time when an employee cannot work and refuses an offer for lighter tasks or different work. Workers working two jobs can take OFLA at one job while out injured at the other.

Intermittent leave is figured for workers by multiplying average weekly hours by 12. If worker hours vary, the average number of hours weekly for the past 12 years is used to figure a normal week. Intermittent hours taken are counted toward OFLA leave.

Each time a worker starts a new leave in a year he took OFLA, he must requalify. Exceptions are:

  • Workers or family members with critical health conditions
  • Women taking any of the 12 weeks of OFLA for pregnancy disability leave
  • Parents taking 12 weeks to care for a sick child after 12 weeks parental leave
  • Workers caring for seriously ill family members who die

Exempt employees are salaried executives, professional employees, and administrators under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Intermittent Leave and Alternate Duty

Companies can transfer workers on intermittent leave or under a schedule reduction into another position to accommodate the time off if:

  • The worker accepts willingly
  • The change is short-term
  • The transfer complies with collective agreements
  • Transfer is only used with no other option is available
  • Transfer isn't doesn't discourage leave

Transferred workers should be reinstated to their former positions upon completion of leave.

OFLA leave for workers using intermittent leave or under a schedule reduction is the difference of actual hours worked and hours normally worked. Holidays or non-business days aren't used toward intermittent or scheduled reduction changes.

Employees can be transferred to recuperate from a critical health issue if:

  • They move willingly
  • The move is temporary
  • The change complies with bargaining agreements
  • The move isn't used to deter leave
  • The move doesn't create undue hardship

All rights to the worker's original position are retained unless all OFLA time is taken within the leave year in addition to the 12 weeks in the alternate position. Leave time is the difference between hours worked doing the different position and normal working hours.

OFLA Leave: Employee Notice; Employer Designation; Employer Notice Concerning Eligibility and Qualification

Under most circumstances, employees must let their employer know about an upcoming leave within 30 days of starting. Worker's must comply with the company's leave policies. Companies have the right to request information to decide if a leave qualifies under OFLA.

Workers cannot just miss work without giving specific information regarding need to take leave. Any worker who needs additional leave time must give their company reasonable notice concerning the request for more time. When a granted OFLA leave ends, workers do not have to come back to work, but employers may ask for more information if it's believed the extra time qualifies for OFLA leave.

Workers who cannot give 30 days' notice must give notice as soon as possible. In unforeseen circumstances, workers must give some form of notice before 24 hours have passed. If the worker isn't able to, another person can request unforeseeable leave on their behalf. Companies can ask for written notice before three days pass from the date of coming back to work. Without adequate notice, employers can reduce available OFLA leave in relation the amount of days taken if a leave meets OFLA criteria, but not FMLA. They can also delay benefits for up to 30 days for failure to adhere to notification rules.

Companies cannot reduce OFLA leave if the information required by the Bureau of Labor and Industries Family Leave Act notice isn't posted or cannot prove the worker was aware of company policies. When a worker asks for OFLA leave the company can ask for a written request within five days for more information unless it's for sick child leave or death of a family member. Employers have five days after getting the information to notify the worker if leave is approved.

All missed work for the same reason accumulates under a single OFLA leave event. If a leave isn't granted, employers must provide written notice to workers that includes why the leave doesn't qualify or why the worker is ineligible. If a leave is denied because medical verification forms aren't complete or are incorrect, a written notice to the employee should state what information is needed to make the forms complete and correct. The worker should have sufficient time to fix it.

Medical Verification and Scheduling of Treatment Under OFLA

Companies can ask workers for medical verification regarding OFLA except in cases of family leave or a family member's passing. All requests have to be written and must give possible actions for failing to bring the information requested. Companies must cover the charges incurred by medical verification that's not paid by insurance. If an employee gave adequate notice for OFLA leave, the employer can ask for medical verification before a leave begins.

Employees filing for unforeseeable leave should produce medical verification before 15 days from the time when the company requests it passes. If a company decides medical verification isn't complete or correct, a written notice must be given to the worker stating what's needed to remedy the issue. If workers fail to meet demands a medical verification for foreseeable OFLA leave, employers can deny OFLA until paperwork is turned in. Employers cannot delay OFLA if medical verification isn't turned in before the start of an unforeseeable leave, but can state the leave is provisionally approved.

When workers bring in medical verification from medical personnel, employers cannot ask for more information from that medical professional. Medical personnel can talk with the employer if the worker or a family representative grant permission. Medical personnel working on behalf of the employer may also contact the employee’s health care provider with permission.

Employers cannot ask for medical verification more than once within 30 days, except when circumstances have significantly changed since the initial verification or there's reason to doubt the validity of a leave. Employers have a right to a second medical opinion, except in sick child leave or a family member's passing. If the second opinion contradicts the first, the two health care providers must agree on a third party to give the employer an opinion. Employers must give copies of all opinions to employees within five days of a request.

When OFLA is needed for an employee's serious health issue, the employer can ask for a work release from the employee's doctor before returning to work. Employers cannot seek second opinions regarding work release.

Employees who miss part or all of three days over the course of an OFLA leave year for a sick child; the employer can ask for medical verification on the fourth day or next occurrence that year. Employers must cover the charges incurred by verification not paid for by insurance and employers cannot seek second opinions regarding sick child leave. During sick child leave, employees must make an effort to keep disruption of business to a minimum.

Medical Verification in Foreign Languages

Employers must accept medical verifications and additional opinions from medical professionals in other countries. If a verification is in any language besides English, employers can ask for a translation. Leave cannot be denied when a translation isn't available, despite the employee's best effort. Employers cannot deny employees use of translation resources.

Job Protection Under OFLA

Employees must be reinstated to their prior position, even if it was filled over the course of the leave or if the position was renamed or changed classification. The only exception is if the position was eliminated. Any new employee hired to fill the position is a replacement. An employee returning to work should have the chance to work the hours a replacement worker was scheduled.

If a job was eliminated during an employee's leave, the employer has to reinstate the worker to an equivalent, available position. If a similar position doesn't exist at one location, the employee can be relocated within 20 miles of the original work site.

Unless company policy says otherwise:

  • Employees don't accrue seniority, get production bonuses, or non-health benefits
  • Employees benefits reinstate upon returning to work, unless benefits are eliminated
  • Employees don't have any more entitlement to a position or benefits than others
  • Employees are subject to layoffs like other similar employees

During OFLA leave, employers have to keep health benefits covered under a group plan. Employees may have to pay their portion while out on leave, and if the employees can't or won't pay their portion, employers can discontinue coverage. If insurance lapses while an employee is on leave, the coverage can be restored upon return to work. Employees don't have to meet normal qualifications, including pre-existing conditions, open enrollment, or medical exams.

If a company doesn't reinstate benefits, liability for lost benefits, including monetary loss and harm, is possible. If the employer covers any portion of the employee's share of insurance, a 10 percent deduction of gross pay to recoup the cost can be applied.

Use Paid Leave: OFLA

An employee that qualifies for OFLA leave can use the following paid leave:

  • Sick time
  • Personal time
  • Vacation time

Employers determine what type of paid leave and in which order it's used and ask the employee to use these types of leave first.

If you are an employer or employee and you have questions about OFLA leave, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.