During the last legislative session, the Oregon Legislature unanimously passed Senate Bill 1, providing for Veterans Day time off for veterans. The law became effective immediately upon signing. Beginning this Veterans Day, November 11, 2013, Oregon employers will be required to provide qualifying employees with Veterans Day off. The employer’s policies determine whether the day off is paid.
Employees who are veterans as defined by Oregon law and are scheduled to work on Veterans Day may ask for that day off. They must provide 21 days’ notice of their intent to take the day off and document their status as a qualifying veteran.
Upon receipt of the request, an employer must determine whether providing the time off would cause “significant economic or operational disruption,” or whether allowing time off is an “undue hardship” as described in Oregon discrimination law. If so, the employer is not required to provide the day off.
At least 14 days before Veterans Day the employer must tell the employee whether time off will be provided and whether it will be paid or unpaid.
If an employer decides not to provide the time off to one veteran, the employer must deny time off to all employees who requested time off for Veterans Day or deny time off to the minimum number of employees necessary to avoid significant economic or operational disruption or an undue hardship.
The employer must allow any qualified veteran denied Veterans Day off to choose, with the employer’s approval, a single day off within the year after Veterans Day on which the employee worked as a replacement.
A veteran is defined by Oregon law to be anyone who has served with the armed forces of the United States and was discharged or released under honorable conditions under one or more of the following conditions:
- The veteran was in the armed forces for more than 90 days before January 31, 1955.
- The veteran was in the armed forces for more than 178 consecutive days after January 31, 1955.
- The veteran served less than 178 days after June 31, 1955 and was discharged or released from active duty because of a service connected disability or the veteran has a disability rating from the Veterans Affairs.
- The veteran served less than 178 days after June 31, 1955 and was discharged or released after spending at least one day in a combat zone.
- The veteran served less than 178 days after June 31, 1955 and received a combat campaign ribbon or an expeditionary medal for service in the armed forces.
- The veteran served less than 178 days after June 31, 1955 and is receiving a non-service connected pension from the United States Department of Veteran Affairs.
What should employers do?
There are no notice requirements under the law, but employers should review their policies in light of the new law and amend their employee handbook as appropriate.
Employers should also establish an internal policy for dealing with Veterans Day off requests. This policy should include a method to intake requests and respond no later than 14 days before Veterans Day. In addition, employers should create a process to ensure that employees who are denied the requested Veterans Day off, are offered and allowed the opportunity to take another day off within the appropriate time period.
What to remember
This Bill had exceptionally broad support in the Oregon Legislature, not surprising given its focus on veterans of the U.S. armed services. Although it provides for a day off, paid or unpaid, for veterans, it does relieve employers of the obligation to provide a specific day off and allows employers to meet their business needs. The primary burden imposed by this new law will likely be administrative, determining veterans status, keeping track of who has asked for Veterans day leave, providing a timely response, and providing delayed Veterans Day leave where necessary.