Oregon Bereavement Leave Laws Explained

There are no federal laws that require employers to provide bereavement leave. Most states have no laws requiring employers to offer bereavement leave. In fact, Oregon is one of the only three states that requires employers to provide bereavement leave to their employees. However, there are various subtleties at play, as is the case with most employment laws in the United States. The HR Digest has created a short guide to help you better understand the bereavement leave laws in Oregon.

History of Oregon’s Bereavement Leave Benefit

Effective January 1, 2014, Oregon is the first state to require certain private-sector employers to provide bereavement leave to their covered employees. The new law amends the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) and applies to employers and employees already covered under that Act. The details of Oregon’s bereavement leave requirements are as follows:

Oregon Bereavement Leave Overview 

If your business has 25 or more employees, you are required to provide protected leave to any eligible employee under the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA). The leave is per loss, up to 12 weeks in a 12-month period. While OFLA is unpaid leave, employers that allow employees to use their paid sick leave for qualifying OFLA events would be required to pay under their sick leave policies.

oregon leave act

Paid vs Unpaid 

According to Oregon’s bereavement policy, employers are not required to pay employees who take bereavement leave. They may establish policies that provide for paid bereavement leave. Employees may also use time acquired under any vacation, sick, personal, or other paid leave policy maintained by the employer while taking bereavement leave under the OFLA.

How Do You Qualify For Bereavement Leave in Oregon?

Employees in Oregon can take bereavement leave to attend a funeral, make funeral arrangements, or grieve the loss of a loved one. This leave is limited to two weeks (10 working days) per death and must be taken within 60 days from the day the employee learns of the death. If you lose more than one family member in a year, you can take up to two weeks of bereavement leave for each family member that passed away.

The term “family member” is defined to include:

  • a spouse
  • a same-gender domestic partner
  • a parent, including:
    • a custodial parent
    • a non-custodial parent
    • a biological parent
    • an adoptive parent
    • a foster parent
    • a parent-in-law
    • a parent of a same-gender domestic partner
    • a person with whom the employee was or is in a relationship of in loco parentis
  • child, including
    • a biological child
    • an adopted child
    • a step child
    • a foster child
    • a child of a same-gender domestic partner
  • grandparent
  • grandchild

It’s important to take a bereavement leave when you’re left handling a loved one’s estate. The time off can allow you to grieve, respond to sympathy messages, or read up on the process of healing. 

It should be noted that bereavement leave does count against any time off you might need under OFLA. If you take the entire two weeks off for bereavement leave, it will be deducted from your OFLA-provided 12 weeks of vacation.

Eligibility Requirements: 

To be eligible for OFLA bereavement leave, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must have worked for your current employer for at least 180 days prior to your leave start date.
  • You must have worked an average of 25 hours per week or more throughout those 180 days.
  • Your company must employ 25 or more people in Oregon for at least 20 weeks per year (seasonal businesses may be exempt).

Giving Notice To Your Employer:

If you’re taking FMLA leave, you’ll usually have to give 30 days’ notice in writing. In the case of a death or an emergency, the OFLA is far more lenient.

It requires  employees to give their employer oral notice within 24 hours of starting their leave. If the employee is unable to notify their employer directly, an intermediary may do so on their behalf. The employer may also require written notification within three days of the employee’s return to work.

Proof of Death:

Bereavement leave laws in Oregon do not specify what documentation may be required to prove that an employee was on leave for a valid reason. Employers may choose to request an obituary, prayer card, or funeral program that includes the deceased’s name.

Your Rights During Bereavement Leave:

You can use your accrued sick day leave or the leave days you get under the FMLA as bereavement leave days as well. You can also lodge a dispute or a case if the employer refuses to give them legal bereavement time that is granted to them by the law of the state.

Recommendations for Employers 

Employers should review their handbooks, policies, procedures and practices to ensure compliance with the bereavement law under OFLA. Human resource professionals who track leave should be aware that the new bereavement law does not apply to an employee’s entitlement to leave under the FMLA and, therefore taking bereavement leave will not reduce the amount of FMLA leave that an employee is entitled to.

Employers must update their employee communications to reflect the bereavement leave benefits of the OFLA.

  • Posters about compliance should be updated.
  • Make sure your Leave Request papers are up to date and contain a request for time off due to a death in the family.
  • Create a system for tracking when employees take bereavement leave under the OFLA.
  • To guarantee compliance with the new law, update your employee handbook.
  • Remember that this additional leave is not covered by the Federal Family Leave Act (FMLA) and should not be used to offset FMLA protections provided to employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius.

Special Requests 

You might allow employees to make special requests for their bereavement leave. Your employee may require extra time to travel or consult with estate attorneys. Write down your bereavement leave policy for approving special bereavement leave requests in your employee handbook. Make it clear if you will have a no-exceptions policy.

Bereavement Leave Policy Violations 

If an employee violates your bereavement leave policy, you should have a set of steps to follow. For example, you may choose to suspend an employee for failing to comply with a leave policy.

Diana Coker
Diana Coker is a staff writer at The HR Digest, based in New York. She also reports for brands like Technowize. Diana covers HR news, corporate culture, employee benefits, compensation, and leadership. She loves writing HR success stories of individuals who inspire the world. She’s keen on political science and entertains her readers by covering usual workplace tactics.

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