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.
To provide employers with greater flexibility in attracting and retaining workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oregon legislature amended the act in 2021 to temporarily exclude vaccine incentives, hiring bonuses, and retention bonuses from the act’s definition of “compensation” for purposes of pay equity requirements. Those amendments were set to expire March 1, 2022. SB 1514 extends the expiration date of those amendments until “the 180th day following the expiration or termination of the declaration of a state of emergency issued by the Governor on March 8, 2020.” The amendments under SB 1514 will take effect immediately once Oregon Governor Kate Brown signs the legislation into law.
On February 24, 2022, Governor Brown announced that she intended to lift Oregon’s COVID-19 emergency declaration, effective April 1, 2022. If the governor does so and signs SB 1514 into law, the amendments’ exclusions would remain in effect through September 28, 2022. Oregon employers would then have through September 28, 2022, to offer vaccine incentives, hiring bonuses, and retention bonuses without fear of running afoul of Oregon’s Equal Pay Act. As a result, Oregon employers will have more tools to combat employee hiring-and-retention issues that have plagued workplaces across Oregon during the pandemic and “Great Resignation.”
SB 1514 has not yet been signed into law by the governor. Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor the bill’s progress and will post updates on the firm’s Oregon and Pay Equity blogs as additional information becomes available.