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Reminder: These Oregon Laws in Effect January 1

January 3, 2020

By Jessica D. Osborne

2020 is here, which means now is a great time to remind our readers of the Oregon employment-related laws passed during the 2019 legislative session that take effect in the new year.

Employer Accommodation for Pregnancy-Related Conditions

Effective January 1, 2020, HB 2341 requires employers with 6 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions. Employers are prohibited from taking adverse action against pregnant employees and/or applicants, which includes refusing a reasonable accommodation or retaliating because of an accommodation request. The new bill requires that employers post signs notifying employees of their rights under the law and provide written notice to all new employees, pregnant employees within 10 days after the employer is informed of the pregnancy, and to all existing employees by June 29, 2020.

Noncompetition Agreements

Effective January 1, 2020, HB 2992 provides that non-compete agreements are only enforceable if the employer provides the employee with a signed, written copy of the agreement within 30 days after termination of employment. The law already required that new employees receive written notice of the need to sign a non-compete agreement at least two weeks before the first day of employment.

Wage Claims in Construction Contracting

HB 3193 requires that the Commissioner of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (“BOLI”) inform the Construction Contractors Board (“CCB”) any time it receives a valid wage claim filed against a contractor or a business subject to licensing pursuant to ORS Chapter 701. The Commissioner must also inform the CCB if BOLI makes a final determination and order that wages are owed or if the contractor fails to pay amounts due within 60 days of the order. The CCB may then revoke, suspend, or refuse to issue a license to the business or individual responsible for failing to pay the amounts owed pursuant to the final order. Effective January 1, 2020.

Pay Equity Requirements for Modified Work

SB 123 makes several changes to the Oregon Equal Pay Act (OEPA), effective January 1, 2020, that will aid employers’ compliance efforts, particularly those employers with unionized workforces.  Amongst the key provisions, SB 123 creates a limited safe harbor for employers to differentiate employees’ pay based on collective bargaining agreement (CBA) language.  Additionally, the bill modifies the requirements for the equal pay analysis safe harbor, eliminating some of the uncertainty that had existed, and clarifies that it is acceptable to pay a different level of compensation to an employee performing modified duty work. More information is available in our recent BAlert.

Right to BOLI Complaint Relating to Retirement Savings

SB 164 creates a right for an employee to file a complaint alleging an unlawful practice with BOLI for an employer’s failure to comply with the requirements of a retirement plan developed under ORS 178.205 (Power and duties of Oregon Retirement Savings Board). If the Commissioner issues a final order finding the employer engaged in an unlawful practice, the Commissioner may impose civil penalties against the employer. The Commissioner must inform the Oregon Retirement Savings Board of any final orders issued. Effective January 1, 2020.

Raising Wage Amounts Excluded from Garnishment

SB 519 raises the amount of wages exempt from garnishment effective January 1, 2020.  For a period of one week or less, exempt wages increase from $218 to $254; for any two-week period, exempt wages increase from $435 to $509; for any half-month period, exempt wages increase from $468 to $545; and for any one-month period, the exempt wages increase from $936 to $1,090.

Criminal Background Checks

SB 775 requires that effective January 1, 2020 any agency of the state government conducting criminal background checks for the purposes of employment conduct the background check through the Department of State Police. In the event of a later claim of negligence, a criminal background check conducted for an agency of the state by the Department of State Police creates a rebuttable presumption that the agency was not negligent based on a failure to conduct an adequate background check. A criminal records check conducted through the Law Enforcement Data System (“LEDS”) meets the requirements of SB 775.

Employee Safety in Health Care Settings

SB 823 requires health care employers to conduct comprehensive security and safety evaluations using state or nationally recognized violence prevention toolkits to identify factors that may cause violence against employees on premises. Evaluations must be conducted by June 30, 2021 and reported to appropriate agency by December 31, 2021. SB 823 also creates an obligation to review workplace assault prevention programs at least every two years. SB 823 makes it an unlawful employment practice to bar or discharge, or otherwise discriminate against an employee or prospective employee, for making a good faith report of an assault occurring on the premises of a health care provider or in the home of a patient.

Setting Subminimum Wage and Providing Wage Accelerator

Although effective on September 29, 2019, SB 494 does not require action until July 1, 2020, at which time employers authorized to employ individuals with disabilities at a subminimum wage must increase such employees’ pay to an hourly rate of $9.25. SB 494 provides a wage accelerator providing annual wage increases to bring subminimum wage to parity with state minimum wage after June 30, 2023. It also removes and redefines language relating to “disability,” “individual with a disability,” and related phrasing to reduce stigmatizing language.
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