Round Two of the Counties’ Challenge to Oregon’s Sick Leave Law

A Linn County judge last month agreed with eight Oregon counties that Oregon’s Paid Sick Leave Law is an unfunded liability. Round one to the plaintiff-counties. My report on that decision is here.

The Oregon Constitution states that if a local government must spend more than one hundredth of one percent of its budget on an unfunded new program or increased level of service, the local government “is not required to comply” with the law.  Round Two involves whether the counties must spend more than .01% of their budgets to on the sick leave law.seal-39732_640

Last week, Judge Daniel Murphy, who had issued the December opinion, held that the State can challenge Linn County’s calculation. Linn County claims that it must spend more than $41,000 on the program, substantially more than the $14,000 which is .01% of its budget. The court allowed the state to conduct discovery and retain an expert to research the county’s financial records. The counties have 90 days to produce records to establish that their costs exceed the .01% financial threshold.

Based on a report of the oral argument on the financial threshold issue, the judge seemed to be interested in whether allowing employees to accrue paid sick leave is an absolute obligation or a “contingent obligation” since employees may use some, none, or all of the accrued time.  The argument also seemed to focus on whether all county employees would be eligible for sick time since some may work less than 90 days.

This case affects the eight plaintiff-counties, as employers. It does not affect private employers within Oregon or other Oregon counties.