The Inside Track: Portland’s paid sick leave, Vancouver’s issue?

Belnavis Clarence

Why does this matter to Vancouver employers? Under the ordinance, any employer who has at least six employees, irrespective of location, must provide paid sick leave for any employee who works within Portland’s city limits for at least 240 hours in a given year. This is as little as approximately 4.6 hours per week. The ordinance counts fulltime, part-time and even temporary employees towards the six-person threshold.

Consequently, a small Vancouver company with a single employee who telecommutes only one day per week from their home in Portland now has to grapple with this law. The sales person who regularly meets clients for lunch or coffee in Portland may also be covered. The law even goes so far as to say that “[o]nce an [e]mployee becomes eligible [for paid sick leave,] he or she remains eligible regardless of the number of hours worked for that employer in subsequent [y]ears.” 

The reality is that Washington employers need to review the nature of the work being performed by their employees to verify which individuals are covered.   

The ordinance is new, has never been tested, and is fairly vague. Although the city of Portland recently issued additional clarification/guidance, that information is also vague and sometimes conflicting. It is no surprise that the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, the agency charged with enforcing the ordinance, will give employers a grace period through July 2014 so that they can educate themselves regarding the law. 

The problem is that the ordinance creates a private cause of action, effective January 1, 2014, on behalf of anyone who feels they were denied their rights under the law. You need to take steps now to make sure that your policies are in compliance with the ordinance in case you have or may acquire workers who spend the requisite 240 hours within Portland for work.  

In short, Portland’s paid sick leave ordinance is a present issue for even Vancouver employers. You should review your policies and the work being done by your employees to ensure that you are ready.  You do not want to be the test case for this new law.  

Clarence M. Belnavis is an employment law attorney at Fisher & Phillips LLP.

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