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Oregon Lawmakers Consider Paid Family Leave Proposal

<p>The Oregon State Capitol in Salem on March 18, 2017.</p>

Bradley W. Parks

The Oregon State Capitol in Salem on March 18, 2017.

Oregon businesses would have to offer employees paid time off to care for children or family members under a bill being considered in Salem.

The measure would require employers to pay into a fund that workers could use for up to 12 weeks a year or more in the case of parental leave.

Democratic Rep. Jennifer Williamson of Portland testified in favor of the bill at a hearing Thursday.

"Too many families in this state are living on the margins and are just one unplanned hardship away from financial ruin or becoming homeless," she said. "And in front of us we have an opportunity to provide working Oregonians with the kind of security they need to thrive and prosper."

Business groups said the bill is "over-reaching" and that it would make it hard for smaller companies to manage their operations.

Betsy Earls of Associated Oregon Industries said "the length of leave is overly burdensome" and "could leave some small businesses short-staffed for much of the year."

Both state and federal law already require larger companies to provide unpaid family medical leave. The measure under consideration would apply to all Oregon businesses.

According to a summary of the measure prepared by legislative staff, California, New Jersey and Rhode Island are the only states that currently offer paid family leave, with new laws in New York and Washington DC taking effect soon.

Copyright 2017 Oregon Public Broadcasting