Oregon Sick Leave Laws for Your Cannabis Business: Clear as Mud

Oregon cannabis employment law issuesIf you’re an Oregon cannabis business owner, you likely employ hourly employees entitled to either paid or unpaid sick leave. Oregon passed comprehensive sick leave legislation in 2015. To put it mildly, the legislation was confusing and employers were unsure how to properly implement its requirements. In July 2017, the legislature amended the act to clear up some of the confusion. This post is aimed to give you some understanding of how the Oregon sick leave laws apply to cannabis businesses that employ a variety of employees.

The Oregon sick leave law requires almost all Oregon employers to provide 40 hours of sick leave per year. Employers that employ at least 10 employees in Oregon (six employees if the employer has operations in Portland) must provide 40 hours of protected paid sick leave. Employers that employ less than 10 (six in Portland) must provide 40 hours of protected unpaid sick leave. Protected sick leave means the employee is permitted to be absent from work without disciplinary consequences or a reduction in benefits. If the sick leave is paid, the employee must be compensated at the employee’s regular rate of pay.

Employees are allowed to use sick time for any of the following purposes:

  • For the employee’s own or an employee’s family member’s mental or physical illness, injury or health condition, need for medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, or need for preventive medical care;
  • To care for an infant or newly adopted child or newly placed foster child within 12 months after the birth or placement of the child;
  • Absences associated with the death of a family member;
  • Absences related to domestic violence, harassment, sexual assault or stalking;
  • To donate accrued sick time to another employee.

Although an employee can use the sick time for the above reasons, employers cannot ask for verification unless the employee takes more than three consecutively scheduled work days of sick time. The employer must pay for any costs associated with obtaining verification of the use of sick time.

There are two ways employers can award the 40 hours of sick time. Employers can either “front-load” the 40 hours at the beginning of the year by giving its employees all of the hours at once or they can require employees accrue the leave as they work. If an employer chooses the accrual method, an employee must accrue one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked or 1-1/3 hours for every 40 hours worked. Employers can cap accrual at 40 hours or allow the employees to continue to accrue after the 40-hour milestone has been reached. Employers have to allow employees to accrue from the first day they begin working but may require an employee to have worked 90 days before using accrued sick time. Employees can carry over up to 40 hours of unused leave from one year to the next.  An employee may have up to 80 hours of sick leave in one year. An employer can limit actual time used to 40 hours per year.

Employers are required to maintain records of the hours worked, the paid sick time accrued and used by each employee, and provide quarterly written notification to each employee of the amount of accrued and unused paid sick time available for use.

As you can tell, there are a lot of moving parts involved with Oregon’s sick leave laws. For ease of accounting, it may be best to front-load your employees with 40 hours of sick leave at the beginning of the year (a year can be an annual period and does not have to be at the beginning of the calendar year). If you go with the accrual method you will need to track each of your employee’s hours and provide them with one hour of sick time for every 30 hours they work. For many of our Oregon cannabis clients — most of whom employ a variety of hourly and salaried employees — this is just too much work. Regardless of the method you choose for awarding sick time, you must at least quarterly give each of your employees with a written statement of sick time accrued and unused sick time available for use at least quarterly.