The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, or “FMLA,” is a federal labor law which requires covered employers to provide their employees with job protected and unpaid leave. This leave is intended for qualified medical and family circumstances. The Act provides rights and protections associated with medical leave for employees, and may continue unpaid leave for up to twelve weeks.

Additionally, the Act requires that covered employers preserve the health insurance benefits for all eligible workers as if they were still actively working. While taking leave, the employee’s position is protected which means that they may not be terminated.

Because the Act is a federal law, it preempts state laws when those laws conflict with each other. What this means is that employees who work in states that offer little or no family and medical leave could still have rights under the FMLA. While some states have laws providing more coverage than the FMLA, most states do not provide more leave than what is required by federal law.

Additionally, not all employers are required to provide the benefits that are required by the FMLA. Federal law has determined that employers are only required to provide all eligible employees with leave if the employer meets one of the following criteria:

  • They are a state, local, or federal governmental agency;
  • The employer is a private business that conducts interstate commerce, with fifty or more employees, that work twenty or more weeks in one year; or
  • They engage in commerce, or are in an industry that affects commerce. Almost every business meets the requirement for being commerce, and/or affecting commerce.

To reiterate, employers are not permitted to terminate an employee who takes family or medical leave for any reason, when that reason is outlined in the FMLA. Employees who are working for employers covered by the FMLA have a right, under federal law, to take leave if they qualify to do so. Employers cannot reprimand the employee for taking this leave, and they are prohibited from discriminating when granting FMLA leave.

What Rights Do Oregon Employees Have?

Similar to employers in every other state, employers in Oregon must adhere to the FMLA. However, state laws in Oregon also give employees the right to take time off for family and medical reasons, meaning employees are protected at both the state and the federal level.

Employers in Oregon who have at least 50 employees for at least 20 weeks in the current or previous year are covered by the FMLA. Employees are eligible for FMLA leave if:

  • They have worked for the company for at least one year;
  • They have worked at least 1,250 hours the previous year; and
  • They work at a location with at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.

Eligible Oregon employees can take up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period. While FMLA leave is unpaid, employees may be either allowed or required to use their accrued paid leave during this leave. Similar to the protection provided by the FMLA, while on leave, they are also entitled to have their health insurance at the same cost that they must pay while working.

With few exceptions, employees are entitled to be reinstated to the same or similar position once their leave is over and they return to work. As long as the employee continues to meet the eligibility requirements that were mentioned above, this leave can be renewed every 12 months.

An employee can take a leave of absence for the following reasons:

  • Bonding with a new child, either after birth or adoption;
  • Recovering from a serious health condition;
  • Caring for a family member who has a serious health condition;
  • Preparing for a family member’s military service; and
  • Employees caring for a family member who was seriously injured on active military duty. It is important to note that such employees are also entitled to longer periods of leave.

What Are Some Different State Laws For Family And Medical Leave?

There are several state laws that give Oregon employees the right to take time off from work. Two such laws include the Oregon Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Oregon Sick Leave Law.

Under the Oregon Sick Leave Law, employers are required to provide employees with one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours of work. Up to 40 hours of leave must carry over from year to year. However, an employee’s total sick leave balance can be capped at 80 hours.

Employers who have ten or more employees are required to provide their employees with paid time off. Employers with fewer than ten employees can provide unpaid time off. Additionally, employees can use sick leave in one-hour increments.

According to the Oregon Family and Medical Leave Act, employers who have at least 25 employees are required to provide time off to eligible employees for the following reasons:

  • In order to care for a family member who has a serious health condition. Family members include grandparents, grandchildren, domestic partners, the parents and children of domestic partners, and parents-in-law;
  • The employee’s own serious health condition;
  • The death of a family member;
  • For prenatal care or pregnancy disability;
  • The birth or adoption of a child;
  • The placement of a foster child; and/or
  • To provide care for a sick child who requires care at home. An employee can only take leave for this reason if there is no other family member who is willing and able to provide care for the sick child.

Employees who take up to 12 weeks of leave in a one-year period can take additional leave for the following reasons:

  • An employee can take 12 weeks of pregnancy disability leave, even after taking 12 weeks of leave for any other reason that was mentioned above;
  • An employee can take an additional 12 weeks of sick child leave after taking 12 weeks of parental leave; and
  • An employee can combine the leave for pregnancy disability, parental leave, and sick child leave in order to take up to 36 weeks of leave.

What Should I Do If I Do Not Meet All Of The Requirements For Taking FMLA Leave?

Depending on which specific eligibility criteria you do not meet, you may still be able to bring a claim for family medical leave discrimination. In addition to the protections that are offered by the FMLA, you should determine whether your state or local laws provide supplemental regulations beyond what is stated under the terms of the FMLA.

An example of this would be how employees who are not covered by the FMLA may be entitled to time off for the following reasons:

  • Their employer provides paid time off;
  • Company policies;
  • Union contract terms;
  • State law; and/or
  • Other regulations, such as Workers’ Compensation or the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Additionally, review your company’s employee handbook or personnel policies. Maintain paper records of any incidents associated with you being denied leave that you are otherwise eligible to receive.

An example of this would be how when requesting leave, put it in writing and preserve any copies of correspondence sent or received from superiors. You should also preserve any medical documentation, as this type of evidence can considerably support an FMLA discrimination claim.

Do I Need An Attorney To Get Family And Medical Leave In Oregon?

Employees in Oregon have the right to take time off from work, under both federal and state laws. If you feel that your employer is not providing you with leave that you are entitled to under the law, you should consult an experienced Oregon employment law attorney.

Your employment lawyer can help you understand your legal rights and options under Oregon’s employment laws, and will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.