• What Is the Oregon Legislature Up to Now? The Top Ten Bills Affecting Employers
  • May 2, 2003 | Author: Alyssa Eve Thirsk Tormala
  • Law Firm: Miller Nash LLP - Portland Office
  • The regular session of the 2003 Oregon Legislature officially began in January. Since then, a number of bills have been introduced into the House or Senate that, if passed, could impact many employers. The following is our "top ten" list of bills, all of which are still in their infancy. You can track their progress at www.leg.state.or.us/billsset.htm

    1. HB 2471 would amend ORS 653.261 (Rest Periods) to provide that employers will not be in violation of Oregon's rules requiring rest breaks if employees choose not to take their breaks. Under current Oregon wage and hour statutes, employers may be liable if employees work through their rest breaks--even if they do so of their own volition.

    2. SB 73 would amend ORS 659A.156 (Oregon Family Leave Act) to entitle employees to 25 hours of "school activity leave" within a one-year period (not to exceed three hours per month) in addition to other forms of family leave (serious illness, parental, and sick child). This leave could be used by employees to attend or participate in school activities (sanctioned or sponsored by the school) of the employees' own children or children in the employee's care. Employees would generally be required to provide seven days notice.

    3. SB 40 would amend ORS 670.600 (Independent Contractor Status) to require the use of a 20-point test to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. Oregon currently uses an eight-point test. This amendment specifically provides that the 20-point test would be applied in a manner consistent with federal precedent.

    4. HB 2276 would amend ORS 659A.885 (Remedies for Violations of Injured Workers Rights) to permit compensatory and punitive damages in civil actions for failure to reinstate or reemploy injured workers. Oregon law currently permits compensatory or punitive damages for discrimination against workers who "invoke or utilize" the worker's compensation system but not for failure to reinstate a worker.

    5. SB 406 would amend ORS 659A.183 (Oregon Family Leave Act) to make it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discriminate or retaliate against an employee who inquires about, submits a request for, or invokes any provision of the Oregon Family Leave Act. It is currently an unlawful employment practice to deny family leave to an eligible employee.

    6. HB 2095 would amend child-support statutes to require employers to enroll an employee's children in the employer's health insurance plan upon court order, withhold premiums from the employee's paycheck, and transmit those amounts directly to the health plan administrator. The amendments would make it illegal to discriminate against such an employee, and would provide for civil action and penalties against an employer who fails to comply with the statute.

    7. SB 284 would amend ORS 657.176 (Unemployment Benefits) to disqualify from receiving of unemployment benefits an employee who voluntarily leaves work (1) because the employer introduced a drug-free workplace policy; (2) because the employer requires the employee to consent to present or future drug or alcohol tests; (3) to avoid taking a drug or alcohol test; (4) to avoid being discharged for misconduct of any kind; or (5) to avoid meeting the requirements of a "last chance agreement." The amendments also specifically define "last chance agreement" for the purposes of drug and alcohol problems.

    8. HB 2411 would create a new statute limiting an employer's tort liability for certain intentional actions of an employee or agent to situations in which the employer knew or should have known that the employee or agent intended to commit the tort, but failed to take reasonable action to prevent it. The amendments would also limit actionable conduct to the kind that the employee was employed to perform, that took place during the time the employee was authorized to act, and that a reasonably objective person engaging in the conduct would have believed was for the benefit of the employer.

    9. SB 9 would amend ORS 408.240 (Military Leave) to comply with federal military-leave law (USERRA) and to allow (but not require) employers to provide health coverage under the employer-sponsored program to an officer or employee while that person is on military leave.

    10. SB 263 and 264 would amend ORS 653.261 (Powers of BOLI Commissioner) to apply meal/rest period rules and overtime rules to persons employed in agricultural labor. Oregon law currently excludes such employees from these rules.

    The Hot Topic for Public Employers
    For public employers, of course, the hot topic is the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS). Numerous bills have been or will be introduced to amend PERS, including one sponsored by a coalition of public and private employer organizations (to be introduced soon as HB 2003). Employers can contact the Oregon School Board Association (OSBA), the Special Districts Association of Oregon (SDAO), the League of Oregon Cities (LOC), or the Association of Oregon Counties (AOC) for more information on this bill.