Bereavement Leave - Not Guaranteed, Not Universal

This article focuses on bereavement leave policies and legal provisions. I chose to focus on this topic, after learning from a friend and former co-worker, that the Clark Regional Wastewater District in Vancouver, WA, recently closed down their office for the memorial service of one of their employees, Chris Hodnefield. His healthy lifestyle and fitness habits were well known and his death came as a shock to all.

Bereavement Leave – Not Guaranteed, Not Universal

Firstly, in researching bereavement leave, employers are not required to pay for this type of leave by the federal government and most states. I decided to focus my research on the west coast states of Washington, Oregon and California.

Washington State - “An employer is not required to give workers paid…bereavement leave.”

Oregon State – “Bereavement leave is not covered by or required under state or federal family leave laws. Like other benefits, bereavement leave is dependent on the employer´s policy.”

California State – “Neither federal nor state laws currently provide protected leave for bereavement.”

Employer Bereavement Policies
Since the laws do not require bereavement leave, employers are left to decide whether to offer bereavement leave to their employees or not. Although the most common time period of leave employers offer is 3 days, the policies vary from 1 to 5 days. Some employers determine the leave for bereavement based on the relationship of the individual to the decedent.

A Look at 6 Oregon Employers Bereavement Leave Policies

Private Educational Institution
Lewis & Clark College
• 5 Days for the death of a Spouse, Same Sex Domestic Partner (SSDP), Child, Stepchild, Parent, or Sibling.
• 4 Days for the death of Stepparent of self/spouse/SSDP, Grandchild of self/spouse/SSDP, Grandparent of self/spouse/SSDP, Son-in-law or Daughter-in-law of self/spouse/SSDP, Child of Spouse/SSDP, Stepchild of Spouse/SSDP, Parent of Spouse/SSDP, Sibling of Spouse/SSDP
• 1 Day for the death of “Any relative not specifically mentioned in this policy.”

Global Technology Corporation

• “Intel offers leave programs to eligible employees in the event they are unable to work due to …personal situations.”

Global Multinational Retailer Corporation
• Paid time-off including: …bereavement

Public Institution Fundraising Organization
Oregon Lottery
• 1 Day Paid – “Full-time employees may request up to 24 hours of paid bereavement leave for the death of a family member.”

Public Educational Institution
Oregon State University
• Up to 3 Days - “Classified employees are eligible for a maximum of three (3) days paid bereavement leave per instance arising from a death in the immediate family of the employee or the employee’s spouse or domestic partner.”

Multinational Snack and Beverage Manufacturing Corporation
Pepsi Co.
• No mention of bereavement leave, only a reference to “Family Leave”.

In researching bereavement leave, it was interesting how difficult it was to find out which companies offered bereavement or funeral leave for their employees. Walmart offered superior benefits with paid bereavement leave. Other companies didn’t fare so well (Intel and Pepsi Co.). Also intriguing was the overall random quantity of the leave with employees being offered 1 to 5 days paid depending on the company and the nature of the relationship of the employee to the decedent.

Pet Bereavement Leave
I was surprised to discover bereavement leave extended to include family pets by the SPCA of San Francisco. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Several U.K. and Canadian companies, including the Bank of Scotland, also offer time off…for pet bereavement.” Considering that I have seen co-workers crippled by the loss of a beloved cat or dog, clearly unable to perform their duties I hope this leave becomes more prevalent. Hopefully more workplaces will consider changing their policies in the future.

Bereavement Leave Discussion
Join us on March 8, when we guest host Death with Dignity's TweetChat for a discussion on Bereavement Leave policies and attitudes.

Get Ready - TweetChat Discussion Questions
1) As an end-of-life professional, do you feel supported by your employer’s bereavement policies?
Please share your experiences with Bereavement Leave policies.

2) How many days do you feel employers should give employees off?
Should relationship closeness dictate time off?
How do we keep people from abusing the time off?
How do we institute polices that support grief while avoiding abuses of time off?

3) What are the cultural and sociological attitudes towards contemporary bereavement leave? What do you foresee as the future for bereavement leave?

Hope to see you on March 8th for the Death with with Dignity TweetChat.

Reference Links
Washington State Department of Labor and Industries -

Oregon State - Technical Assistance for Employers –

California State – Assembly Bill Analysis to Extend Bereavement Leave –

Lewis and Clark Bereavement Leave Policy –

Jobs and Intel – USA – Compensation and Benefits

Walmart Stores Benefits –

Oregon Lottery – Employee Benefits -

Oregon State University – Leave Accrual & Use of Leave Time

Pepsi Co. -

San Francisco SPCA -

Wall Street Journal “Westminster Dog Show: Taking “Peternity” Leaves” -