The Oregon Legislative has only been in session for a few months and already there has been quite a bit of activity in the labor law category.
Let’s begin by reviewing the widely anticipated bills such as Paid Sick Leave and an increased Minimum Wage, which likely will end up on the Governor’s desk, then move on to the unexpected in this legislative update.
To better understand the direction of priorities in this session it is helpful to review the political landscape. Most of Oregon did not miss that Governor Kitzhaber resigned and we have a new governor, Kate Brown. Governor Brown is a Democrat and was formerly the Secretary of State. In the state legislature, the Oregon Senate is made up of 18 Democrats and 12 Republicans. The Oregon House is comprised of 35 Democrats and 25 Republicans. As the Democrats have solid majorities they are better able to advance their agenda. Generally speaking this agenda, relating to labor law, is focused on protections for employees and an increase in employee benefits.
PAID SICK LEAVE
Paid sick leave is something that will likely pass this session. Portland and Eugene both have sick leave laws on the books and other cities have looked into their own versions. Heading off the possibility of a patchwork of dissimilar laws in multiple municipalities the legislature seems set to devise a single statewide standard. Both the senate and the house are working on this matter and each has its own version. In the Portland sick leave law, businesses with less than six employees were not required to provide sick leave. The introduced bills for consideration do not contain exemptions for small businesses. However one bill, Senate Bill 454, was amended to require sick leave for all employees but would only require paid sick leave from employers that have six or more employees.
As previously stated it is reasonable to assume that some version of paid or unpaid sick leave will soon be a required employee benefit. Cardinal can advise a course of action, tracking sick time taken or implementing a comprehensive time and attendance system with accruals.
Related to paid sick time are:
These bills would give a tax credit to employers providing paid sick leave.
An increase in minimum wage is another area where Democrats have been active nationwide at the state and local levels. For example, in 2014 Seattle voted to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour by 2021. There are several bills in the legislature:
- House Bill 2008 – Gradually increases the minimum wage.
- House Bill 2012 – Has the minimum wage top out at $13.50 in 2017.
- House Bill 2009 – Increases the minimum wage to $15.00 by 2018 .
Not unlike paid sick leave, a bill was introduced on minimum wage to encourage a particular behavior.
- House Bill 3271 – Employers would qualify for a tax credit if they pay employees more than the minimum wage.
EQUAL WORK, EQUAL PAY
These bills complement one another.
- House Bill 2006 – Deals with requiring equal pay for both sexes in the equivalent position.
- House Bill 2007 – Prohibits employers from disciplining employees who disclose their pay.
At first glance these do not seem very controversial. However in reading the fine print it could set up scenarios that create animosity. For example, would an employee be able to request an investigation and then once it has been concluded do a record request even if the conclusion was that there is no evidence of wrongdoing? Then the employee would have access to all of their coworker’s rates of pay. A fifty cents an hour difference between coworkers who are members of the same sex can still cause friction. This is often the argument for keeping employee rates of pay private. But maybe conventional wisdom is wrong and transparency is better in the long term. If these bills pass expect scrutiny in how they are implemented via Oregon Administrative Rules.
TIMELY PAYMENT OF WAGES
Non-payment of wages goes against American’s sense of what is right. To this end there are several bills addressing various iterations of this wrongdoing.
- House Bill 2212 – Would impose civil penalties on the employer for not paying wages on time.
- House Bill 2387 – Allows the Bureau of Labor and Industries to impose a bond on employers that fail to pay properly pay wages.
- House Bill 2923 – Creates a task force looking into employee compensation in Oregon.
- House Bill 3083 – This bill would help define wages for wage claims.
- House Bill 3113 – Requires an employer wage bond in certain wage claim cases.
HIRE A VETERAN
- House Bill 2839 – Income tax credits for employing veterans.
FLEXIBLE AND/OR PREDICTABLE WORK SCHEDULE
- House Bill 2010 – This bill is aimed solely at the retail, hospitality and food service industries and would require employers to provide a predictable and/or flexible work schedule.
There are several provisions in this law. Employers would be required to provide schedules two weeks in advance. Employees are protected if they ask for changes in their schedule and employers must, “…engage in a timely, interactive process with the employee to attempt to agree upon a mutually acceptable work schedule.” There are also rules on calling in employees to work on their day off. If an employer calls in an employee because they think they are going to be busy, the employer will have to pay the employee an extra hour of time. Complying with this is going to require considerable documentation. This is in area where a time and attendance system would be advisable. Cardinal can help you implement such a system.
VOLUNTARY COMPLIANCE WITH E-VERIFY
- House Bill 2043 – Uses employee tax deductions as an incentive for employers to use the federal E-Verify program.
OREGON EMPLOYEE LEAVE
- House Bill 2607 – Reduces Oregon Family Leave Act eligibility hours from 25 to 24. It is unclear what spurred a house representative to ask for the threshold to be dropped by one hour.
- House Bill 2646 – Requires employers to let employees attend specific school related functions.
BAN THE BOX ON STEROIDS
There has been pressure to require employers not to ask about felony convictions on the initial application. This is referred to as ‘Ban the Box’.
The concern being addressed is that felons do not get past the initial screening when applying for a job. Portland recently implemented such a policy for internal positions. These proposed laws go beyond the initial Ban the Box lobby of requiring employers not to initially ask about felonies. There are additional requirements. Some of the required steps include giving a conditional letter of employment, then running a background check, denoting the types of felonies that apply in a specific position and if any adverse action is taken the employee would have 4 or 10 days to clear that up and the employer would have to hold the job open during that time. Some parts of these proposed requirements are best practices which Cardinal already offers.
- House Bill 3137 – Would stop employers being able to force employees to sign false documents.
One would think that this is already illegal. Even if it is not against the law (which it should be) it is like requiring bank robber to get a license. It is reasonable to conclude that if an employer is falsifying documents they would have no scruples about forcing their employees to sign off on them.
Cardinal will endeavor to keep you updated as this session progresses. When there is movement on these bills and as laws go into effect we will discuss strategies for compliance. Or stay tuned by visiting our compliance section here.
Arin J. Carmack