Employer mandates—paid sick leave and a minimum wage hike—were enacted during the last two legislative sessions, and now Oregon lawmakers are considering another one. If House Bill 3087 is approved, Oregon small businesses also would have to find a way to pay for a family and medical leave program.
Under HB 3087, a statewide family and medical leave insurance fund would be established, giving workers up to 12 weeks of paid leave to care for their own illness or that of a family member. An additional six weeks would be provided for the birth or adoption of a child. Employees would earn about 90 percent of their regular wages during leave. The program would be funded by rerouting a half a percent of every worker’s paycheck to the fund, and employers would be required to match the amount. HB 3087 is sponsored by House Democratic Leader Jennifer Williamson, Rep. Diego Hernandez and Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon.
Anthony Smith, NFIB/OR state director, says that an overwhelming 95 percent of NFIB members in Oregon oppose any paid family leave program funded by employers. Furthermore, 90 percent of NFIB/OR members employ fewer than 25 people. This is an important number because under current law, the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA), only companies with 25 or more employees are required to provide eligible workers with protected leave.
“The bottom line is that OFLA and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act draw important distinctions between large employers and small businesses, acknowledging that the size of a business is an important factor in determining its capacity to accommodate employee leave,” Smith said. “If HB 3087 was to become law, that would no longer be the case because the bill defines ‘employer’ as any person who employs one or more employees working anywhere in the state.”
House Republicans, meanwhile, are pushing their own plan. House Bill 3336, sponsored by Reps. Jodi Hack and Knute Buehler, would establish pre-tax family medical leave savings accounts to which both workers and employers would have the option of contributing. Employees would then be able to draw money from the fund during leave. And because the accounts would be funded with pre-tax income, any voluntary contributions would provide a tax advantage for the individuals by lowering taxable income. The proposal would also keep OFLA intact, a key difference between the two competing bills that small businesses will be watching with great interest.
As of this writing, both bills are with the House Committee on Early Childhood and Family Supports and will next go to the House Revenue Committee.