New Employment Laws Ring in the New Year

The Oregon legislature enacted a few employment laws this year which go into effect on January 1, 2012. Following is a brief summary of the new legislation:

  • BOLI Can Now Assess Hefty Penalties for Bounced Paychecks: This new law allows BOLI to assess penalties against employers who issue dishonored paychecks. The penalty will be $100 or triple the amount of the bounced paycheck, whichever is greater. The penalty is in addition to the amount of the bounced paycheck.
  • Notices of Nonpayment of Wages Must Contain Detailed Information: Current Oregon law allows an employer to cap penalties at an amount equal to the unpaid wages if the employer pays the employee the wages owed within 12 days of receiving a written notice from the employee of nonpayment of wages. The problem with the law (at least up until now) has been that it did not require the employee to specify the amount of unpaid wages in the notice, which often left employers at a loss as to how much the employee was claiming the employer owed. Under the new law, the notice of nonpayment must include an estimated amount of wages alleged to be owed or facts sufficient to enable the employer to estimate the amount owed.
  • Tipped Food and Beverage Servers May Continue to Waive Their Meal Periods: The legislature extended the law that allows tipped food and beverage servers to voluntarily waive their meal periods.
  • Employers Must Continue Insurance Benefits During Jury Duty: It will now be an unlawful employment practice for employers with 10 or more employees to interrupt insurance benefits while an employee is serving or is scheduled to serve as a juror.
  • Employees Can Take Unpaid Leave for Jury Duty: Employers will now be prohibited from requiring their employees to use sick leave, vacation leave, or annual leave for time spent on jury duty. Employees can now elect whether to take unpaid leave during jury service.
  • Advanced Notice of Arbitration Agreements: This new law reduces the 14 day advanced notice employers must give to potential employees if an arbitration agreement is required as a condition of employment to 72 hours. Under the new law employers must notify the prospective employee in a written employment offer that an arbitration agreement is required as a condition of employment at least 72 hours in advance of commencing work, and must provide the employee with a copy of the arbitration agreement. The new law also requires employers to include the following disclaimer in all arbitration agreements. The disclaimer must be in bold face type. The new law does not change the previous law that allows employers to require employees to sign arbitration agreements on their "bona fide advancement."

    "I acknowledge that I have received and read or have had the opportunity to read this arbitration agreement. I understand that this arbitration agreement requires that disputes that involve the matters subject to the agreement be submitted to mediation or arbitration pursuant to the arbitration agreement rather than to a judge and jury in court."

  • Technical Changes to Discrimination Laws: The legislature made technical changes to Oregon's employment discrimination laws. The changes include: (1) employees and applicants are permitted to sue employers for discriminating on the basis of genetic information; (2) BOLI now has authority to enforce the crime victims leave law; and (3) employers are now permitted to use credit histories in employment decisions regarding public safety officers.  
  • Public Employers Must Interview All Veterans: This law applies only to public employers. Effective January 1, 2012, public employers are required to interview each and every qualified veteran who applies for a civil service position when an interview is a component of the selection process for the position, or for an eligibility list for the position. In order to qualify for an interview under the new law, the veteran must meet minimum and special job qualifications and must have transferable skills obtained through military education or experience that substantially relate to the position.

NLRB – Another Postponement of the Right to Unionize Posting Requirement
As reported earlier, the NLRB issued a regulation requiring private sector employers – both those with and without unions – to post an official government Notice advising employees of their legal rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), including the right to unionize and/or engage in strikes, picketing, and other protected concerted activity. The posting requirement has been delayed due to a challenge of this regulation in the court. On December 20, during oral argument in the challenge to the NLRB Notice Posting Rule, Judge Amy Berman Jackson said the case is a complicated one, and she asked the Board to postpone the effective date of the Rule beyond January 31, 2012, because she needs more time to deal with the issues. In response to the Judge's request, the Board agreed to postpone the effective date of the rule.

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