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For Employers in 2016, Change Is In the Air

January 2016

Published in the Daily Journal of Commerce

Here are some suggested resolutions for Oregon employers in 2016:

Pay for sick time
Starting Jan. 1, private employers in Oregon with 10 or more employees are required to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year to eligible employees. Statewide employers with fewer than 10 employees will be required to provide up to 40 hours of unpaid sick leave. Employees must be able to carry over up to 40 hours of sick leave from year to year; however, the law does not require employers to provide more than 40 hours of sick leave each year. Employers are required to provide existing employees with notice of their right to take sick leave no later than the end of the employer's first pay period after Jan. 1, 2016. The new sick leave law, regulations, frequently asked questions, and a form notice to provide to employees, can be found at: www.oregon.gov/boli/TA/Pages/index.aspx.

Job application restrictions
Employers need to remove questions about criminal convictions from employment applications for most positions. Starting Jan. 1, employers cannot require a job applicant to disclose a criminal conviction on an application or prior to an initial interview. If no interview is conducted, employers cannot require an applicant to disclose a criminal conviction prior to making a conditional offer of employment. The new law does not prevent employers from considering an applicant's conviction history when making a hiring decision – it just prohibits automatic disqualification from consideration for employment for many jobs on the grounds that an applicant has a criminal conviction.

Noncompetition terms
Employers entering into noncompetition agreements with employees in Oregon after Jan. 1 need to shorten the term of post-employment restrictions on competition from two years to 18 months based on an amendment to an Oregon statute. Post-termination restrictions on solicitation are not addressed by the amendment. Accordingly, post-employment restrictions on solicitation are not limited to 18 months.

Employee wage discussions
In line with protections afforded to employees by the National Labor Relations Act, Oregon has a new law that makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discharge, demote or suspend, or to discriminate or retaliate against, an employee because he or she has: (i) asked about or discussed or disclosed in any manner the wages of the employee or of another employee; or (ii) 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. With some exceptions, the new law does not apply to employees who have access to wage information as part of their job function and who disclose wages to individuals not authorized access to the information, unless the disclosure is in connection with a complaint or is in furtherance of an investigation.

Employee classification
In July 2016, the Department of Labor is expected to issue a new rule that updates the minimum salary requirement for administrative or executive employees to be exempt from overtime. The proposed rule is expected to increase the minimum salary for exempt employees from $455 per week to $970 per week ($50,440 annually). In anticipation of the new rule, employers should take a close look at how their managerial/supervisory employees are classified and start making decisions about which employees to reclassify as nonexempt and which employees should receive increased compensation to maintain their exempt status.

Health insurance and family leave
House Bill 2600 brings the Oregon Family Leave Act in line with the federal Family Medical Leave Act by requiring employers to continue group health insurance during family leave on the same terms as if the employee continued to work. Employees are required to continue to make regular contributions towards the cost of health insurance premiums while on OFLA leave.

Employers also should resolve to review their employment policies annually, update policies on a regular basis, require compliance with policies, and document noncompliance in writing as much as possible.

This article was written by Elizabeth Semler, former Sussman Shank LLP Employment Law Partner.

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