Oregon, Colorado Declare Public Health Emergencies Triggering Leave Requirements

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and influenza cases are surging across the United States while COVID-19 continues to spread. Faced with hospital beds filling up and experts warning that this could be one of the most severe respiratory illness seasons in recent years, two states—Oregon and Colorado—have declared public health emergencies that will impact state sick and family leave requirements as workers struggle with the illnesses or to care for sick children.

The Hazards of Remote Employee Layoffs: Wage and Hour Issues, Severance Agreements, and Unemployment Claims

Remote work has exploded since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with some employers hiring employees to work remotely anywhere in the United States. With the recent economic downturn, layoffs are beginning to occur, and for the first time a significant number of remote employees may be included in layoffs. Layoffs of remote employees present unique legal hazards for employers.

Oregon Governor Signs Bill on Incentives, Bonuses, and Equal Pay Act Requirements

Oregon employers may want to be aware that on March 7, 2022, Governor Kate Brown signed into law amendments to the state’s Equal Pay Act detailed in Senate Bill (SB) 1514. As a result, Oregon employers may offer vaccine incentives, hiring bonuses, and retention bonuses until 180 days after the expiration of the COVID-19 state of emergency without running afoul of the Equal Pay Act.

Oregon Legislature Passes Equal Pay Act Amendments Extending Temporary Exclusion of Certain Incentive Payments

The Oregon Legislative Assembly recently passed Senate Bill (SB) 1514, extending the expiration date of temporary amendments to Oregon’s Equal Pay Act. The act prohibits employers from “discriminat[ing] between employees on the basis of a protected class in the payment of wages or other compensation for work of a comparable character,” unless the wage differential is based on certain bona fide factors.

Oregon OSHA to Promulgate Rules Addressing Employee Exposure to Wildfire Smoke

From 2020 through 2021, wildfires burned more than 1.5 million acres of land in Oregon. To put things in perspective, the area that burned was approximately seven times the size of New York City. Wildfire smoke can contain hazardous small particles that can penetrate deep into the lungs, causing a range of health problems. On September 11, 2020, wildfire smoke caused Portland’s air quality to rank worst among major cities across the world with an air quality index (AQI) of 349, a level that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency characterizes as “hazardous.” Unsurprisingly, Oregon is taking measures to address the health risks associated with exposure to wildfire smoke, and the state is expected to soon join California in adopting related regulations.

Oregon OSHA Announces Stance on Federal Vaccine-or-Test Standard

On January 13, 2022, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) announced that because the Supreme Court of the United States has stayed the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), it “will not move forward with adopting the same or similar standard in Oregon.”

 

Oregon OSHA Announces Schedule for Implementing COVID-19 Vaccine or Test Standard

Oregon operates a state plan that the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has approved that applies to both public and private employers. Accordingly, Oregon employers are subject to the state OSHA’s standards rather than the federal OSHA standards. Oregon OSHA may adopt an emergency temporary standard (ETS) related to COVID-19 that differs from the federal ETS, but Oregon OSHA’s ETS must be “as effective as” the federal ETS.

Oregon OSHA Anticipates Delay in Adopting COVID-19 Vaccine or Test Standard

When the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a new emergency temporary standard (ETS) on November 4, 2021, Oregon OSHA had only 30 days to adopt its own standards, until December 4, 2021. However, in light of a federal court order staying the federal ETS, Oregon OSHA recently updated its website to state that it does not anticipate adopting a rule by December 4, 2021, although it is “continuing discussions with stakeholders.”

Oregon Employee Leave Entitlements for Absences Due to Child’s COVID-19–Related Illness, School Closures, and Quarantine Orders

Under Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s Executive Order 21-15, the state of public health emergency due to COVID-19 will continue in Oregon until December 31, 2021, unless the governor extends the deadline or terminates the state of emergency before the end of the year. Now that school is back in session in Oregon and most schools and students are returning to in-person attendance, the potential exists for school closures and/or student quarantining due to exposures to COVID-19. Employers may want to refamiliarize themselves with leave entitlements that may be available to Oregon employees under the Oregon Sick Leave (OSL) law and/or the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) in the event that the children of employees are subject to quarantine orders or required closures of their schools or places of care.

Oregon Lifts Most Statewide Mask, Distancing, and Capacity Restrictions: What Employers Need to Know

Effective June 30, 2021, Oregon Governor Kate Brown, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), and the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division (Oregon OSHA) lifted most statewide mask and physical distancing restrictions related to COVID-19, with limited exceptions. Mask requirements remain in place in some specialized settings, including healthcare, emergency medical services, public transit, transportation hubs, and correctional facilities. In addition, businesses may continue to require individuals to wear masks, face coverings, or face shields, and physically distance regardless of vaccination status. Individuals may continue to wear masks, face coverings, or face shields, even when not required, if they choose to do so.

Oregon Enacts Employment Protections for Hairstyles and Other Physical Characteristics Historically Associated With Race

On June 11, 2021, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed into law House Bill 2935, also known as the CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair), joining several other states in explicitly prohibiting employers and public schools from discriminating against individuals based on physical characteristics historically associated with race, including hair texture and protective hairstyles.

Multistate Compliance for Employers With Out-of-State Remote Employees

The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted a number of previously in-person positions to remote work and telecommuting. In the meantime, many employees have moved out of state from their usual office locations for personal or financial reasons. As a result, many employers are left wondering what their legal obligations are for remote employees working out of state. The biggest concerns are local employment laws, workers’ compensation insurance, and unemployment insurance obligations. Employers may also be subject to out-of-state payroll tax obligations.

New Measures in Oregon Decriminalize Certain Narcotics and Legalize Psilocybin Therapy

Oregon voters approved two groundbreaking measures in the 2020 election season to become the first state in the nation to decriminalize personal possession of small amounts of certain controlled substances (Measure 110) and legalize the therapeutic usage of psilocybin in a controlled therapy setting (Measure 109). Many employers may be wondering what these measures mean and how their workplaces and existing employment policies might be impacted.

Leave for Oregon’s Volunteer Emergency Responders During Unprecedented Wildfires

On September 9, 2020, Oregon Governor Kate Brown issued Executive Order No. 20-41 invoking the Emergency Conflagration Act Statewide in light of extreme fire danger. Governor Brown’s invocation of the Emergency Conflagration Act remains in effect until at least November 1, 2020, as wildfires continue to rage. More than 1 million acres of land have burned across Oregon since September 7, 2020. To put things in perspective the area burned is nearly five times the size of New York City.  According to Governor Brown, Oregon is facing an unprecedented level of uncontained fire. To put the flames out, Oregon will need all the help that it can get from its courageous firefighters and first responders.

Oregon Enacts Sweeping #MeToo Law

On June 11, 2019, Governor Kate Brown signed into law the Oregon Workplace Fairness Act (SB 726), which will significantly impact all Oregon employers. The Act addresses concerns of the #MeToo movement by imposing strict requirements on how Oregon employers respond to complaints of harassment and discrimination. The legislation also significantly increases the statute of limitations within which an employee may assert a claim of discrimination, from one year to five years.

Oregon Modifies Noncompete Law for 2020

On May 14, 2019, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed House Bill (HB) 2992, which imposes a new burden on employers that want to have enforceable noncompetition agreements with their Oregon employees. For any noncompetition agreement entered into on or after January 1, 2020, employers must provide employees with a signed, written copy of the terms of the noncompetition agreement within 30 days after the termination of employment.