May 2024 leave and compliance briefing

May 22, 2024

Family on couch

From leave legislation going into effect in Oregon, to a delay in Maryland’s paid family and medical leave program, to the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, important changes are taking place in several states and around the country. We’re tracking the latest updates to keep you in the know and compliant.

Oregon Family Leave Act updates

On June 7, 2023, the Oregon legislature passed Senate Bill 999 which enacted changes to Oregon’s Family Leave Act (OFLA) to align certain provisions more closely with Paid Leave Oregon. On March 20, 2024, Oregon enacted additional changes to OFLA (via SB1515)  that repeals certain provisions already covered by Paid Leave Oregon. In addition, the bill makes clear that Paid Leave Oregon is in addition to OFLA and the two are not to run concurrently.

Effective July 1, 2024, Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a one-year period for an employee to:
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    Care for a minor or adult dependent child who is suffering from an illness, injury or condition that requires home care
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    Care for a minor or adult dependent child whose school or childcare provider is closed or unavailable during a statewide public health emergency declared by a public health official
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    Grieve and make necessary arrangements or attend a funeral (or alternative service) due to the passing of a family member

    • Leave for this purpose is limited to up 4 weeks of unpaid leave in a one-year period
    • Each instance of bereavement leave is limited to two weeks and must be taken within 60 days of receiving notice of the family member’s passing

OFLA provides an additional 12 weeks of leave for any period of disability related to pregnancy, childbirth or prenatal care.

To be eligible for leave, an employee must work for their employer at least 180 calendar days immediately prior to the start of leave. They must also have worked or been on job protected leave for an average of 25 hours per week during the past 180 days. During a declared public health emergency, an employee must have worked for their employer for at least 30 calendar days at an average of 25 hours or more per week.

How do OFLA and Paid Leave Oregon compare?

Below is a chart outlining some of the key differences (details reflected as of 7/1/24). 

Category OFLA Paid Leave Oregon 
Covered employer 25+ OR employees in 20+ calendar weeks All employers
Employee eligibility
  • 180 days tenure
  • 25 hours/week average
$1,000 earnings in base period
Reasons for Leave
  • Pregnancy disability
  • Child health
  • Bereavement
  • Sick child
  • School/childcare closure
  • Adoption/Foster care (pre-placement activities, doesn’t include bonding)
  • Employee’s own serious health condition (including pregnancy disability)
  • Care of a family member
  • Parental/bonding leave (includes leave needed to effectuate adoption/foster care placement effective 1/1/2025)
  • Safe leave
Amount of Leave 12 weeks
  • Additional 12 weeks for pregnancy disability
  • Additional 2 weeks of leave for adoption/foster care placement (7/1/2024 - 12/31/2024)
12 weeks
  • Additional 2 weeks for pregnancy-related limitations
Intermittent Leave As supported by leave event One workday increment
Simultaneous coverage Employee takes leave from a specific employer
Employee must take leave from all employers

To learn more, visit the Oregon Family Leave Act page here

Recently published regulations on the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations to “qualified” workers for a known physical or mental condition related to, affected by, or arising out of pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, regardless of whether the condition meets the definition of disability under the ADA. The PWFA applies only to accommodations and does not replace other federal, state, or local laws that are more protective of workers affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
The final rule and guidance for implementing the PWFA was released by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on April 15, 2024. It will go into effect on June 18, 2024 and covers a comprehensive range of topics. One key highlight of this regulation covers predictable assessments, and what this entails for employers and employees. Predictable assessments are simple modifications for the employee that are almost always considered reasonable, as defined by the PWFA, and should not create an undue hardship for the employer. These simple modifications outlined under the PWFA include:
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    Allowing an employee to carry or keep water near, as needed
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    Allowing an employee to take additional restroom breaks, as needed
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    Allowing an employee whose work requires standing to sit and those whose work requires sitting to stand, as needed
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    Allowing an employee to take breaks to eat and drink, as needed

Another key provision of the final rule outlines when medical documentation may be required to support an employee request under the PWFA. Self-confirmation or informal verbal exchanges of information with a qualified employee can be sufficient to support a number of accommodation requests spanning both predictable assessments and other accommodation requests. In limited situations, medical documentation may be requested in order to confirm the existence of a physical or mental condition, confirm that the physical or mental condition arises out of pregnancy and to describe the type of adjustment or change at work that is needed.

An additional key point covers essential functions. An employee may still be considered "qualified" if they have a known limitation resulting in the need of one or more essential functions of their position temporarily suspended. Due to this, employers may be required to temporarily suspend essential functions as a reasonable accommodation absent undue hardship.

For more information, view the final rule in the Federal Register here.

Maryland delays Paid Family and Medical Leave Program

Governor Wes Moore signed legislation on April 25, 2024 that among other program changes and clarifications, will delay the contribution start date and benefits start date for the Maryland Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) Program. The new law shifts the dates of the program as follows:
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    Contributions begin from October 1, 2024 to July 1, 2025
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    Benefits are payable from January 1, 2026 to July 1, 2026
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    Contribution rate will set from October 1, 2023 to February 1, 2025
Learn more on Maryland’s PFML website

Maine Paid Family and Medical Leave Program

On May 20, 2024, the Maine Department of Labor (DOL) released proposed rules for the Paid Family and Medical Leave Program. The public comment period is now open, continuing into July 8. On Monday June 10 at 9 a.m. the DOL will hold a public hearing for stakeholders and interested parties to comment on the proposed rule. At some point following the public comment period, the DOL will release a final version of the rule. The Maine Department of Labor is accepting comments online via their rulemaking webpage.

The proposed rule outlines implementation procedures and program details relating to the following topics: Definitions, Coverage, Use and Types of Leave, Eligibility, Notice and Undue Hardship, Benefits, Claims, Fraud and Ineligibility, Premium, Elective Coverage, Substitution of Private Plans, Returning from Leave, Appeals, and more.

As a reminder, premium contributions begin January 1, 2025 and benefits will be available May 1, 2026. The contribution rate is 1% of employees’ gross wages, up to the social security maximum, split equally (50/50) between employers and employees. Employers with fewer than 15 employees will not have to pay the employer’s portion of the premium but must still collect and remit the employee portion.

Regarding private equivalent plans, the proposed rule states that applications for substitution may be made after January 1, 2026, but that an exemption may not be effective prior to April 1, 2026. Applications for substitution must be submitted on a form provided by the Department and will be accepted on a rolling basis. Finally, the employer is responsible for premiums until the effective date of an approved application for substitution.

At this point, the rule is not final and it is possible that changes are made between the proposed rule and the final rule. Unum will provide an update once the rule is finalized.

New York Paid Prenatal Leave

New York has become the first state in the nation to mandate paid prenatal leave for pregnant employees. On April 19, 2024, Governor Kathy Hochul signed new legislation that expands New York State Labor Law § 196-b (New York State’s Paid Sick Leave law). This new law requires all New York employers to provide 20 hours of paid prenatal leave starting January 1, 2025.
This first-of-its-kind law provides a separate bank of paid prenatal leave, in addition to the state's existing paid sick time and paid leave. The leave may be used by pregnant employees for healthcare services, including appointments, procedures, and monitoring related to the pregnancy.
View the legislation here.

Need help navigating your unique leave and absence needs?

From expert compliance resources to modern absence-management technology, Unum has solutions that can elevate your capabilities and your employees' experience. For more information, contact your Unum client manager or check out our leave and absence management solutions.