Governor Brown approves progressive medical leave law

On Friday, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed into law a family medical leave act. The act has been called “the nation’s most progressive family leave act.” The House bill passed this session with bi-partisan support. This law makes Oregon the eighth state in the United States to offer guaranteed family leave.

In a news release this week, Governor Brown said,

“Oregon families no longer need to make the difficult choice between paying the rent and staying home with their newborn, or between chemotherapy and keeping food on the table. It’s absurd that our society values someone clocking in and out of their job above holding a loved one’s hand — and that will change under HB 2005, where all families who need and care for each other will be recognized.”

 

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The bill grants up to 12 weeks compensated time off from work to care for a new child (including adoption and fostering), provide care for a family member, or to recover from a serious health condition. The bill allows individuals to define family, stating that family includes, “any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with a covered individual is the equivalent of a family relationship.”

At Friday’s signing, Governor Brown said,

“I’m very, very proud to be making Oregon history today…You all did it. We all did it working together. And we did it for the mother whose seven year old son had to have emergency brain surgery. She was fired from her job when she called to tell them she couldn’t come into work that day. We did it for countless Oregonians caring for older family members, oftentimes balancing caring for young children and working for jobs outside the home.”

In her remarks, she also brought attention to a private organization which gives family leave benefits to faculty but not staff. Saying of the bill, that practice will change so that all employees receive adequate family leave benefits.

“In short, this law is going to allow families, however they are composed, to care for each other in times of need. But the harsh reality is, we are certainly behind … on this as a nation. The US is only one of two countries in the world that does not provide paid maternity leave to working mothers.”

In her speech, Governor Brown went on to describe the role of family leave and fathers. Three out of four dads take less than one week leave at the birth of a new child. Nearly 60% of low-income working fathers take zero weeks of paternity leave. Of this, Governor Brown said,

“Families, all of our families, regardless of how they’re composed, deserve time to love and care for each other. So, I’m extremely proud that Oregon can be a leader amongst all of the states.”

Individuals may be granted additional leave up to 18 weeks for complications in childbirth or pregnancy. The bill establishes payment based on workers’ income, and allows 100% wage replacement for minimum wage workers. This bill also provides time off for victims of domestic violence.