Oregon employers must comply with new laws signed by Governor Kate Brown mandating the provision of sick leave benefits, prohibiting inquiring into or considering an applicant’s criminal conviction history on an employment application form or prior to an interview, limiting non-competition agreements to no longer than 18 months from the date of the employee’s termination, prohibiting discipline of an employee who shares wage information, and requiring the continuation of an employee’s group health insurance coverage during family leave.

These new laws will go into effect on January 1, 2016. 

Paid Sick Leave

Oregon has become the fourth state to mandate that employers provide their employees sick leave benefits. Subject to certain exceptions, Senate Bill 454 applies to all private-sector employers, regardless of the location of the employer’s primary place of business. In addition to reasons for permitted leave, the new law provides for accruing and carrying over of time from year to year. For details of the new law, see our article, Oregon Enacts Paid Sick Leave.

Criminal Conviction History

It is an unlawful practice for an employer to exclude a job applicant from an initial interview solely because of the applicant’s past criminal conviction under H.B. 3025. The legislation applies to all employers, unless they are exempt from the new law. For more on this new law, see our article, Oregon Governor Signs ‘Ban the Box’ Legislation.)

Pay Discussion and Disclosure 

Oregon employers will be prohibited from disciplining an employee who shares wage information under new law. 

H.B. 2007 amends existing law (ORS 659A.885) to provide:

It is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discharge, demote or suspend, or to discriminate or retaliate against, an employee with regard to promotion, compensation or other terms, conditions or privileges of employment because the employee has:

  • Inquired about, discussed or disclosed in any manner the wages of the employee or of another employee; or
  • Made a charge, filed a complaint or instituted, or caused to be instituted, an investigation, proceeding, hearing or action based on the disclosure of wage information by the employee.

The amendment “does not apply to an employee who has access to wage information of employees as part of the job functions of the employee’s position and discloses the wages of those employees to individuals not authorized access to the information, unless the disclosure is in response to a charge or complaint or is in furtherance of an investigation, proceeding, hearing or action, including but not limited to an investigation conducted by the employer.”

An aggrieved individual may file a complaint with the state Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries or a civil action in court. Potential remedies include “injunctive relief and any other equitable relief that may be appropriate,” including reinstatement or the hiring of employees with or without back pay of up to two years.

Oregon joins a growing list of states to prohibit employers from discharging, disciplining, or otherwise discriminating against an employee because the employee discloses the amount of his or her wages or salary. Employers should review their policies and procedures to ensure compliance with the new law. 

Non-Compete Limitation

H.B. 3236 amends Oregon’s non-competition law (ORS 653.295) to provide that non-competition agreements entered into on or after January 1, 2016, may not have a term exceeding 18 months from the date of the employee’s termination. The remainder of a term of an agreement in excess of 18 months is voidable and may not be enforced by an Oregon court.

Health Benefits Continuation during Leave

Oregon employers will be required to continue health insurance coverage for an employee out on Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) (ORS 659A.150 to 659A.186) leave under a new law.

H.B. 2600 requires continuation of group health insurance coverage for an employee on family leave on the same terms as when the employee is not on leave (the employee is responsible for regular contributions to the cost of premiums). Previously, the law had no requirement for continuation of benefits, except as required by agreement or policy.