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Senate revisits paid family leave

September 27, 2017

By Mark Hester,
Oregon Business and Industry

The Senate Workforce Committee devoted more than two hours of its Legislative Days meeting to testimony on Paid Family Leave (PFL), which remains a priority for Democratic leadership. Though PFL legislation, as currently proposed, would require a tax and therefore a 60% supermajority in both chambers of the Legislature, proponents continue to look for a path to a bill.

Oregon Business & Industry (OBI) Vice President & Counsel Betsy Earls testified at the hearing, describing the type of legislation businesses could support. She emphasized these points:

  • Any statewide PFL program must preempt all local government mandates on the subject. Preemption is necessary, for family leave and any other employment mandate, so businesses with multiple locations do not have to navigate a hodge-podge of regulations around the state.
  • Any PFL program should be funded by employee contributions. Cost is obviously one of the most important factors in implementing a program of this kind. Even with an employee-funded program, employers will incur costs from the work it takes to implement and manage the program.

Earls also outlined some specific concerns that businesses have about PFL. These include:

  • Any PFL program must mirror both the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) in as many respects as possible, including the types of employers covered, the definitions of family members, and job protections.
  • Employers should be allowed to require the use of existing Paid Time Off (PTO) and Paid Sick Leave (PSL) banks to run concurrent with PFL. PFL should also run concurrently with OFLA leave, if the employee qualifies.
  • Any PFL discussion should include realistic estimates of how much the mandate will cost state government, both as an employer and as an administrator. Related to this point, Theresa Van Winkle, Senior Policy Advisor for the Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS) estimated in her testimony, that 90-100 employees would be needed to administer a PFL program.

Advocates will continue to push for legislation that achieves their goals. It’s important that the business community voice our concerns and priorities, as well. Write to your Legislature to tell them the specific impacts of this type of leave on your companies.

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