Even before the new mandates of the COVID-19 pandemic response, employers were already reeling from a multitude of policy changes impacting their operations.
In just the past five years, employers have been asked to adjust to a complex minimum wage law, paid leave mandates, pay equity, scheduling laws, limits on working hours, expanded liability for employee lawsuits and many more regulatory directives from state agencies. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession have hit employers with new regulatory requirements just as they were learning how to implement these new labor and employment laws. For years, employers have been asking for a break from new regulations, and they need it now more than ever. Our primary employment policy principle for 2021 will be “do no harm.” We will call for a moratorium on new employment regulations and ask legislators to give us time to implement all the new regulations before us and space to recover our businesses.
Policy positions OBI will take include:
SAIF: Oppose legislation that in any way weakens the financial position of SAIF or reduces its ability to fulfill its statutory mission to make workers’ compensation insurance available to as many Oregon employers as possible.
- OBI’s position includes but is not limited to:
- Any payment by SAIF to the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) or any other government entity.Any reduction in the SAIF capital account.
- Any encumbrance on or use of future revenue streams.
Workers’ Benefit Fund: Oppose legislation that reduces or encumbers the Workers’ Compensation Benefit Fund.
Workers’ Compensation: Support the Management Labor Advisory Council (MLAC) process. Oppose legislation not approved by MLAC. Oppose legislation that would create presumptions for coverage. Support exclusive remedy protections for all Oregon employers. Support a strengthened Managed Care Organization structure. Support current definitions of “attending physician.” Oppose proposals to expand “attending physician” status to physician assistants and nurse practitioners.
COVID-19 Unemployment Insurance (UI) Benefits: Support policies that mitigate the impact on businesses from claims caused by COVID-19 and government-ordered shutdowns.
Unemployment Insurance Benefits: Support strengthening provisions for denial of UI benefits for workplace misconduct and oppose the expanded use of UI benefits beyond their intended use, including legislative “sweeps” of UI funds, diversion of UI funds for striking workers or employees on family or medical leave, or for job training purposes.
Unemployment Insurance System: Support legislation that protects the integrity and solvency of the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund while maintaining a stable and predictable tax structure.
Safety and Health
Ergonomics: Support current ergonomic standard for Oregon employers.
Oregon OSHA: Oppose expansion of Oregon OSHA authority to cite or penalize employers. Oppose increased Oregon OSHA enforcement staff unless it is preceded by an increase in consultation staff. Continue to oppose any effort by the division to act outside of its regulatory authority.
Safety and Health: Support policies and legislation that are consistent with the Oregon Court of Appeals ruling in OSHA v. CC&L Roofing, where the court found that employers are not liable for supervisor misconduct. Oppose any rulemaking, regulatory action or legislation that undermines the basic principle that employers should not be liable for employee misconduct.
Employment and Labor
Attorney Fees: Support proposals that provide for prevailing party attorney fees. Support proposals that allow attorney fees for employers in merit-less cases.
Concurrent Leave Laws: Support legislation that more closely aligns all Oregon leave laws with federal leave laws to ease unnecessary administrative burdens on Oregon employers. Oppose any additional regulatory burdens.
Discrimination: Support general principles of non-discrimination and existing laws. Oppose expansion of causes of action. Oppose legislation that would expand definition beyond current law. Oppose legislation that would create greater burdens of proof for employers.
Family Leave: Support employee-paid family leave legislation if it aligns with other policy principles but oppose state mandates for employer-paid family leave.
Labor: Support the right of employees to engage in fair and secret ballot elections in union organizing campaigns. Support the right of employers to communicate their views on unionization with their employees and an election process that gives employers adequate time and a fair opportunity to convey their views. Oppose legislation or regulation, including card check systems, which limit the ability of workers to vote in a secret ballot union election. Oppose any expansion of employee rights to use employer resources for purposes of organizing or other union-related activity.
Non-compete agreements: Oppose legislation that would eliminate the ability of businesses to protect trade secrets through enforcement of non-compete agreements.
Overtime: Support a flexible weekly overtime standard that mandates overtime payments for all hours worked in excess of 40 per week without requiring redundant extra pay for daily and weekly overtime. Support legislation that restores employer flexibility and does not restrain the ability of employees to work overtime if they so choose. Support the right of employers and employees to agree to overtime and maximum working hours.
Pay Equity: Support legislation that prohibits pay discrimination based on the ten protected classes listed in Oregon’s equal pay law while allowing pay differences based on any non- discriminatory reason.
Penalty Wages: Support legislation that limits liability for penalty wages when there is a dispute over wages due after an employee has left employment.
Personnel Information: Support appropriate personnel file policies that protect the secrecy of confidential workplace investigations.
Preemption: Support statewide preemption of local government employment-related mandates.
Private Right of Action: Oppose expansion of private rights of action in statute. Support requirements that complaints be filed with state agencies prior to right to sue. Oppose legislation that allows for unions and trial lawyers to file suit outside of existing processes.
Scheduling: Support legislation that allows employers and employees flexibility in scheduling work hours, as well as meal and rest break periods.
Workplace Drugs and Alcohol: Support policies and legislation that support an employer’s right to apply and enforce zero-tolerance workplace drug and alcohol policies. Oppose policies and legislation that weaken or undermine the Oregon Supreme Court’s decision in Emerald Steel Fabricators v. BOLI (2010). Oppose legislation that would encumber employers’ abilities to enforce zero-tolerance workplace drug and alcohol policies or employer drug testing policies.
Workplace Regulation: Oppose expansion of employer liability through new and expanded protected classes and activities.
Policy Principles 2021
These policy principles will guide Oregon Business & Industry (OBI) as we represent our members and the broader Oregon business community throughout the 2021 legislative session.