Q. We´ve heard there´s a new Oregon law that allows employees to take time off work to attend court hearings. What are the specifics?
A. You are referring to Senate Bill 610, a victims´ rights law amending passed by the Oregon legislature during the 2003 legislative session and made a part of the civil rights laws in Chapter 659A of the Oregon Revised Statutes.
The law, which became effective on January 1, 2004, grants certain crime victims and immediate family members the right to protected leave from work to attend criminal proceedings.
It applies to any organization that employs six or more persons in Oregon for 20 or more weeks in the calendar year in which the employee takes leave or in the immediately preceding year.
In order for an employee to eligible for leave under this law, the employee must have worked an average of more than 25 hours per week for at least 180 days immediately before the leave begins.
The law says the employee must also be a "crime victim," meaning that he or she "has suffered financial, social, psychological or physical harm as a result of a personal felony." The law treats immediate family members of the person as crime victims as well and defines "immediate family" to include a spouse, domestic partner, father, mother, sibling, child, stepchild or grandparent.
Q. How much of this crime victims´ leave is an employee entitled to take?
A. The law doesn´t set a specific time limit on the amount of leave an employee may take, but does say that an employer may limit the leave if it creates an undue hardship to the business, meaning "a significant difficulty and expense," taking into consideration the size of the business and any critical need for the employee.
If an employer limits the employee´s leave due to undue hardship, the law provides that the employee may notify the prosecuting attorney, who is then required to notify the court. The court must then take the employee´s work schedule into consideration when scheduling the criminal proceedings.
Q. Is crime victims´ leave required to be paid leave?
A. The law only provides for unpaid leave, unless paid leave is promised under a union contract or other employment agreement. However, eligible employees who take this type of leave are permitted to use any paid accrued vacation - or other paid leave offered by the employer in lieu of vacation -- during the period of leave. If the employee has different types of paid leave available, the employer´s policy may dictate the order in which the employee must use paid leave.
Q. How much notice does an employee have to provide before taking crime victims´ leave?
A. The law requires that the employee provide "reasonable notice" of the intention to take leave and copies of any notices of scheduled criminal proceedings that the employee receives from a law enforcement agency. Employers must treat any such documentation as confidential records.
Q. What are the prohibitions in this law, and what penalties apply to employers for non-compliance?
A. The statute makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to deny leave to an eligible employee, or to discharge, threaten to discharge, intimidate or coerce the employee because the employee takes leave to attend a criminal proceeding.
Employees who believe the employer has violated the law are authorized to file civil actions, and a court may order injunctive relief and other equitable relief, including reinstatement, back pay and reasonable attorney fees.
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are based on the facts as we understand them, and not intended to apply to any
other situations. This communication is not an agency order. If you
need legal advice, please consult an attorney. We attempt to update the
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developments in the laws and rules affecting Oregon employers, but we make no
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information provided is current. We urge you to check the applicable
statutes and administrative rules yourself and to consult with legal counsel
prior to taking action that may invoke employee rights or employer responsibilities
or omitting to act when required by law to act.
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