Family Leave Bill, HB 3087, Contains Taxing Provisions

Published Thursday, March 9, 2017

Long before the 2017 Legislation Session started, it was clear that paid family leave would be a priority for labor unions, advocacy groups and Democratic leadership. However, as HB 3087 worked its way through the drafting process it took a surprising turn. Legislative Counsel classified it as a revenue-raising bill that requires a three-fifths vote.

The supermajority requirement means that to pass the bill, Democrats must find at least one Republican vote and hold the support of everyone in their caucus. That could be difficult, because HB 3087 doesn't just require employers to offer paid family leave. The bill also includes requirements that place administrative burdens on employers even if they already offer paid family leave, extends benefits to more employees under more circumstances than laws that have passed in other cities and states, places part of the cost of funding the program on employers and imposes extraordinarily heavy penalties for noncompliance.

Among the more troubling aspects of HB 3087:

  • Every business in the state would be affected, even those with only one employee.
  • Employees would be able to request leave to provide care for a broad range of family members, including "an individual whose close association to the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship."
  • The conditions under which leave can be granted are extensive, including not only parental leave, military leave and caring for a family member with serious health issues but also any reason covered under ORS.659A.159, the statute that guarantees unpaid family leave.
  • The length of leave is generous - 12 weeks, with an additional six weeks for parental leave.
  • The Department of Consumer and Business Services will adjust the rates that employers pay annually under a formula that could make rates difficult to project.
  • Employers will be required to file annual reports to the Department of Revenue on employee hours worked and amounts due to the family leave fund.
  • In some circumstances, employees would be able to request extended paid family leave with little advance notice to the employer.

Most businesses support the concept of family leave. Many already offer paid leave that can be used for extended family-related absences. But HB 3087 overreaches and creates conditions that would make it costly and difficult for businesses - especially small ones - to plan and manage their operations. The bill needs substantial amendments before Associated Oregon Industries (AOI) could consider supporting it.