Losing a family member is one of the most difficult events a person may experience in their lives. The resulting grief can cause many mental or emotional issues, and may hinder a person’s ability to carry on as usual in his or her everyday life. Unfortunately, most employers, especially large companies and corporations, tend to not be very understanding of the effects of death on an employee’s well-being and ability to perform at work. These employers may allow time off for a funeral, however they expect the employee to return to work almost immediately thereafter and continue job duties per usual.
Robin Zimmerman, a member of Bakers Union Local 144, experienced the devastating loss of his wife to cancer in 2008. Though his own bosses were strongly supportive, Zimmerman was horrified to learn that the standard workplace leave for a grief and mourning period was only three days. Through research, he learned that neither federal nor state laws made available a period of time off of work to grieve. Because his own struggle with losing his wife went on for much longer than three days, Zimmerman decided to stand up for Oregon employees and worked for the labor laws to be changed to provide for widespread availability of bereavement leave. Though his original attempt to amend the law failed in 2011, Zimmerman refused to give up and once again found political support in both state houses to resubmit a new bill this session.
Oregon House Bill 2950
On June 13, 2013, Oregon House Bill 2950 (HB 2950) was signed into law, effectively amending the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) to include bereavement leave. Going into effect on January 1, 2014, the amendment allows employees to take up to two weeks of leave following the death of a family member. The leave can be used for funerals and other services, to make adjustments or arrangements necessitated by the loss, or to simply take time to grieve. There is some fine print to the amendment however, including:
-The leave applies only to employees at companies and firms with 25 or more employees;
-The full two weeks must be completed within 60 days of the death of the family member;
-The leave must be counted toward total period of authorized family leave.
However, this new law will make bereavement leave available to a large amount of employees across the state of Oregon beginning next year. Though two weeks is not long enough to completely recover from their loss, employees will at least have a little extra time to spend time with their families and make necessary arrangements.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding leave availability, or if you believe that your employer has violated OFLA or retaliated against you for taking available family leave, it is important to consult with an experienced employment attorney. Do not hesitate to call our office to schedule a consultation.