October 2007

Changes to Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA)

The Oregon legislature has passed two amendments to the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) impacting the employer’s obligations under that law. The first amendment alters the interplay between protected OFLA leave and leave for on-the-job injuries. The second amendment expands coverage of OFLA and creates protections from retaliation.

Tracking OFLA leave for employees with work-related injuries

The Oregon legislature approved amendments to OFLA and the statutes governing injured worker reemployment/reinstatement rights. The amendments redefine “family leave” to exclude leave for a compensable work injury and prohibit counting leave for a compensable work injury against the twelve week entitlement to OFLA leave. However, if the injured worker rejects a bona fide modified job offer, a period of OFLA leave automatically begins to run without any further notice from the employee. For most situations, this means that an employee retains twelve weeks of protected leave regardless of how long he or she is absent from work due to an on-the-job injury. OFLA leave cannot be tracked concurrently with workers’ compensation leave.

Expanded coverage; retaliation claims

In a second bill, the legislature expanded the OFLA definition of “family member” to include grandparents and grandchildren. It also added a retaliation clause similar to protections under the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Oregon courts have upheld retaliation claims under OFLA although the statute does not expressly provide for such a cause of action. Federal courts have consistently refused to recognize such a claim. The amendment ends that debate.

These amendments go into effect on January 1, 2008. Employers should review their written medical leave and workers’ compensation policies to ensure that any necessary changes are implemented as of January 1, 2008. If you have any questions about the new laws and how they will impact your business, please give SBH a call.