BEND, OR -- The Bureau of Labor and Industries fielded questions about Oregon’s new mandatory sick time law during a public hearing in Bend, Tuesday. Paloma Sparks with BOLI explains the law passed during the last legislative session: "Every employer that has 10 employees or more has to provide paid sick time; one hour for every 30 hours worked, for up to 40 hours." BOLI is holding hearings across the state as it creates rules.
Sparks tells KBND she has heard questions and concerns from all types of businesses. "In Oregon, we are a state of small businesses. So, few have 100 employees – that’s a big business in Oregon. Everybody is just sort of concerned with this new administrative difficulty. But, a lot of low-wage workers just don’t have any kind of sick time."
Krista Thompson is on both sides of the debate – she works for Black Butte Ranch, and her husband owns a small business. She came to to public meeting to ask BOLI about costs associated with the new law. "If you are an employer who already has a policy in place sick pay or PTO or some sort of vacation, it’s easy-ish to make those tweaks and comply. If you’re an employer who does not offer those benefits, it introduces a cost, an expense for the company. My concern, my worry is how many businesses will drop out because they can’t afford that."
Sparks acknowledges BOLI has a lot of details to work out before the law takes effect in January. "A lot of people are just concerned with the administrative issues of how are we going to figure this out, how are we going to manage it, what’s the right kind of notice procedures to have for their employees, what about when we have employees that work different kinds of schedules than other kinds of employees, how do you do the verification process." An employer can request a doctor’s verification if a worker misses more than three days. But there are still questions of privacy and who pays for that verification.
The CFO of Redmond-based Central Oregon Truck Company said there were a lot of unanswered questions for those who are paid per mile or per piece, not per hour. And he wondered how the Oregon law, which is different from a similar law in California, will impact businesses who work across state lines. The President of Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort questioned how the law would pertain to seasonal and part time workers.
No questions were answered Tuesday, but Sparks says there has been one underlying theme at each public hearing. "A lot of employers think that, they sort of only think of sink time as a potential for abuse from employees. In Portland what we saw was that employees don’t take their sick time. If they take any, it’s a day. Employees are only using this a last shot for being able to stay home when they’re sick. But, right now, the theme seems to be a lot of distrust between the two sides."