An outside attorney is investigating a formal complaint of discrimination within the team tasked with building Oregon’s Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance program. Oregon Employment Department acting director David Gerstenfeld disclosed the investigation at a press briefing Wednesday.
Gerstenfeld provided few details, saying he couldn’t comment on an active investigation. He declined to describe the nature of the alleged discrimination or whether any agency employees had been disciplined.
“Equity and inclusion is not optional at our agency. It’s core to what we do,” Gerstenfeld said.
Oregon lawmakers voted to create the paid leave program in 2019. It’s considered one of the most generous such programs in the nation, providing up to 12 weeks of paid time off for employees who are new parents, victims of abuse, recovering from serious health conditions or caring for an ailing family member.
However, the program is already delayed by at least eight months.
Employee benefits are now expected to begin in September 2023, under a revised timeline approved by lawmakers earlier this year.
Gerstenfeld ran the Employment Department’s Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance division prior to taking over agency leadership last year. He said the investigation would not further delay the program’s implementation, noting that rulemaking was underway.
“We remain on track for the statutory implementation dates,” he said.
In addition to disclosing the investigation, however, Gerstenfeld described an exodus of several key personnel from the new program’s team. That includes its acting director, who, according to Gerstenfeld, had previously announced he would depart this month.
It was unclear if any of the staff departures were related to the discrimination complaint.