Q: What new employment laws impact Oregon employers?
A. The employment law landscape is shifting in Oregon, with this year’s legislative session bringing several noteworthy changes to the state’s employment laws. In this blog post, we explore some of the more significant changes passed in 2021 and forecast what may come our way in the months ahead.
Noncompetes. Oregon’s new noncompete law increases the salary threshold for employees potentially subject to noncompetition agreements, requiring a minimum salary of $100,533 per year. The maximum post-employment restricted period will decrease from 18 months to 12 months. Under the new law, noncompliant noncompete agreements are void, rather than voidable, meaning they are unenforceable without the employee needing to take any steps to challenge them. The new law goes into effect on January 1, 2022, so Oregon employers should review their noncompete agreements with legal counsel to ensure compliance with these new requirements.
Leave Laws. The legislature clarified the meaning of “public health emergency” under the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA), defining the term as requiring a proclamation by the governor to protect public health. “Sick child leave” has expanded to include the need to provide home care due to the closure of a child’s school or childcare provider because of a public health emergency. Further, OFLA eligibility requirements are reduced from 180 days to 30 days for any qualifying reason due to a public health emergency. Finally, an employee who leaves employment and returns within 180 days must have their OFLA eligibility restored to what it was before they left employment. These changes take effect on January 1, 2022.
The legislature also approved a delay for several facets of the Oregon Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance program by one year, including the deadline for creating rules for policies and the date by which employers must begin funding the program. Employers now have a reprieve on these obligations and do not need to comply with the new law until January 1, 2023. Employees who qualify for paid leave under the new law will not become eligible to take leave until September 2023.
Discrimination and Harassment. Oregon joins a growing number of states to pass a CROWN Act, which expands existing antidiscrimination laws to include protection for physical characteristics historically associated with race. The CROWN Act prohibits discrimination based on hair styles and textures and takes effect on January 1, 2022.
Oregon also passed a law prohibiting employers from requiring a driver’s license from prospective employees if driving is not an essential function of the job. Beginning January 1, 2022, Oregon employers may not require a driver’s license to verify identification and should accept other valid identification documents for purposes of I-9 verification forms.
Vaccine Mandate for Health Care Workers? Shortly after the 2021 legislative session wrapped up, Governor Brown directed the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) to issue a rule, requiring new health and safety measures in health care settings. The new rule requires weekly COVID-19 testing for personnel in health care settings, which can be waived with proof of vaccination. The rule applies to personnel in health care settings who have direct or indirect contact with patients or infectious materials. While state law currently prohibits employers from independently mandating vaccines for health care workers, this new law signals that Governor Brown may take steps to change that legislation in the February 2022 session. In the meantime, effective September 30, 2021, Oregon employers of health care workers must require weekly testing for all personnel who have not produced proof of vaccination.