A bill that protects employee leave for bereavement was heard this week in the Senate Business and Transportation Committee. Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer (D-Portland) led off testimony on House Bill 2950 with comments related to the loss of a loved one and the impact the grief process has on the family member, followed by Rep. Shemia Fagan (D-Clackamas) and Rep. Bill Kennemer (R-Oregon City). The legislators talked about how their personal losses impacted them, adding that this law would allow individuals the time necessary to deal with a significant loss.
HB 2950 carves two weeks out of the eligible 12 weeks of Oregon Family Leave (OFLA) that would be designated to deal with the death of a family member. This designated leave could be unpaid, but it is intended to provide employment protections to the employee as he/she deals with his/her loss. The specified two weeks does not add additional time to the existing 12 weeks leave under OFLA; it simply designates two weeks of the 12-week period for an eligible employee to use in dealing with various associated issues (e.g., to coordinate, attend or grieve the loss) when a family member is deceased.
Current law allows for a loved one to care for a sick family member, but the employment protections cease when that loved one passes. Proponents of the bill indicate that HB 2950 would fill that void in the law.
Employers spoke about the regulatory burdens caused by OFLA and its federal counterpart, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA); both are very problematic to implement, they said. Oregon has one of the broadest definitions of family, meaning employees can access leave for many reasons. Compliance issues for employers for various provisions of the leave law continue to be complex and challenging.
The House approved the measure (40-18) back in April. The Senate committee took no further action on HB 2950, but it is anticipated to receive additional future consideration.