9 counties file suit over paid sick-leave

Lawsuit says state constitution allows opt-outs

Linn County Chairman Roger Nyquist explains the lawsuit against Gov. Brown, May 27, 2016 (KOIN)

ALBANY, Ore. (KOIN) — Nine Oregon counties have filed a lawsuit against Governor Kate Brown and Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian in hopes of opting out of the state’s paid sick-leave law.

The lawsuit was filed Friday morning by the Linn County board of commissioners. Douglas, Jefferson, Morrow, Malheur, Polk, Sherman, Wallowa and Yamhill counties are also participating.

In 2015, Oregon passed a law requiring employers with at least ten employees to offer 40 hours of paid sick leave every year. Linn County Chairman Roger Nyquist says his county’s full time employees already have that, but the law would require it for seasonal workers, as well.

The additional costs would add up to $41,000 per year for Linn County.

”We think for us, operationally, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to offer a paid leave program to them,” said Nyquist.

The lawsuit hinges on a 1996 Oregon constitutional amendment which says when new programs are approved by the state, the local government can ask to be reimbursed for the extra costs or drop the program entirely.

“This is part of us trying to proactively manage our budget, both on the revenue side and the expense side,” said Nyquist.

If the counties win this lawsuit, the repercussions could expand beyond paying for sick-leave. The 1996 amendment has never been tested in court, and with the minimum wage set to increase across Oregon this year, there’s a chance this could set a legal precedent for counties to try to opt out.

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