“General Judgment” Adds Insight to Oregon Paid Sick Leave Settlement

The lawsuit brought by nine counties challenging the Oregon Paid Sick Leave Law was settled last month. My post about that settlement was based on a newspaper report. I now have the official “General Judgment,” which provides insight into the circumstances that led to the settlement.

A bit of background to put the settlement in context. A Linn County judge last December agreed with the plaintiff-counties that Oregon’s Sick Leave Law was an unfunded liability. 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 program, the local government need not comply with the law.

Following the December ruling, the parties engaged in discovery concerning whether the plaintiffs had met the .01% financial threshold. Following discovery, the parties stipulated that Linn, Douglas and Yamhill Counties met that threshold and “would be “more likely than not to continue to satisfy the financial threshold in this manner in future years if they continued to comply with the paid sick leave law,” according to the Court’s General Judgement. The Court concluded that those three counties “may lawfully refuse to comply with the Paid Sick Leave Law unless and until the Legislative Assembly allocates sufficient funding for the program, or identifies and directs the imposition of a fee or charge to be used by plaintiffs to recover the actual cost of the program, or circumstances change such that” the county no longer meets the financial threshold.

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The other six plaintiff-counties withdrew from the case. While the General Judgment does not explain why they withdrew, I is likely that they were unable to meet the financial threshold.

While a settlement typically ends a litigation, in this settlement, the State has reserved the right to appeal the judge’s decision that the Sick Leave Law is a “program,” as that term is used in the state constitution.  Now the State must decide whether to appeal that decision.

The Oregon Sick Leave Law requires employers with at least ten employees (six in Portland) to provide up to forty hours of paid sick leave annually. Smaller employers must provide unpaid sick leave. This litigation dealt only with the plaintiff-counties as employers. It did not involve private employers.