2013 Oregon Legislative Session: Employment Law Highlights

Oregon’s 2013 legislative session now belongs to history. Members of the state legislature get a break… but for employers/managers/human resources professionals, it’s time to study up! (And time to tune up your policies/handbooks, too.) Many of the new laws already are in effect—others will be as of the new year. Here are just some of the highlights effecting employers:

Veterans to Receive Leave on Veterans Day (SB 1, already effective as of April 4, 2013): SB 1 requires employers to allow veteran-employees to take leave on Veterans Day (November 14th). The employer has the option to grant paid or unpaid leave. Of course, there are some exceptions, eligibility criterion, and notification requirements that allow some flexibility to employers. For example, the veteran must request the day off at least 21 days in advance, and an employer is not required to grant leave if doing so would cause a “significant economic or operational disruption or an undue hardship to the employer.” Where a request is denied for a valid exception, however, the employer must allow the veteran-employee to choose to take an alternate day off in the following year.

Payment by Direct Deposit at Employer Discretion (HB 2683, effective January 1, 2014): HB 2683 amends ORS 652.110(3) to allow employers to pay employees via direct deposit without the prior consent of the employee. As always, a few limitations apply: 1) if the employee requests an old-fashioned check, the employer must comply, 2) employers may not charge the employee to process the payment through direct deposit, and 3) employers must still provide a physical itemized wage statement unless the employee consents to an electronic statement. Ready to adopt a “direct deposit for all” policy? Hold on: the new law does not take effect until January 1, 2014. This should give enough time to update your employee handbook to ensure that it is consistent with any new policy you choose to adopt. The cost savings, efficiency, and increased certainty of delivery make this new law a great opportunity for most.

New Limitations on Access to Social Media Accounts (HB 2654, effective January 1, 2014): HB 2654 limits an employer’s ability to access an employee or applicant’s social media accounts. Specifically, employers are prohibited from: 1) requiring or requesting an employee or applicant to provide access to a personal social media account, 2) compelling an employee or applicant to add the employer as a contact, 3) requiring the employee to access its personal social media account in the employer’s presence, and 4) engaging in any type of retaliation as a result of an employee’s refusal to comply with a prohibited employer request. Don’t make the mistake of just thinking “Facebook” and “Twitter” – “Social Media” is defined quite broadly. (Think: any electronic/online medium for creating, sharing and viewing user-generated content.) As always, there are exceptions and exclusions to the new law, but be warned: social media is still a minefield for employers and managers!

Workplace Protection for Unpaid Interns (HB 2669, already effective as of June 13, 2013): HB 2669 gives interns many of the protections from discrimination that already apply to Oregon employees. You name the protected class or activity, it is likely included: race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, age, military service, disability, whistleblowing, participation in civil and criminal proceedings… and there’s also protection concerning genetic information, polygraph tests and more. Don’t worry, the new law does not (by itself) create an employment relationship with interns. But a word to the wise: make sure your interns become familiar with your anti-discrimination/anti-harassment policies and how to report any concerns. Not sure if your summer college-credit-seeker is an intern? Look here to find out, and check with your lawyer.

OFLA to Include Bereavement Leave (HB 2950, effective January 1, 2014): What’s certain in life? They say death, taxes… and perhaps the expansion of the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA). The death of a family member has been added as a new type of OFLA leave. Specifically, within 60 days of receiving notice of the death, an eligible employee can take up to two weeks off to: 1) attend the funeral or alternative to a funeral, 2) make arrangements necessitated by the death of the family member, or 3) grieve the death of the family member. The new legislation does not require employees to give advance notice to take bereavement leave so long as oral notice is provided within 24 hours prior to leave and written notice is provided within three days of returning to work. Finally, note that the federal Family and Medical Leave Act does not provide for bereavement leave, so while employers need to count bereavement leave toward the 12 weeks of leave permitted under OFLA, employers should avoid the mistake of counting bereavement leave against the employee’s entitlement to leave under FMLA.