2015 Legislative Update: What’s New for Oregon Employers

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The 2015 Oregon State Legislative session included the passage of several bills affecting Oregon employers, employees, and the relationship they share. Most relevant to Oregon employers are: House Bill 3025 (Criminal Conviction History), House Bill 3236 (Non-Compete Limitation), House Bill 2600 (Health Benefits Continuation), and Senate Bill 454 (Paid Sick Leave). Each bill becomes law in 2016.

House Bill 3025 sets a new standard under which employers may inquire into an applicant’s criminal background. Effective January 1, 2016, HB 3025 makes it an unlawful practice for an employer to exclude a job applicant from an initial interview solely because of the applicant’s past criminal conviction(s). It also prohibits an employer from requiring an applicant to disclose on an employment application a criminal conviction; to disclose, prior to an initial interview, a criminal conviction; or if no interview is conducted, to disclose a criminal conviction prior to a conditional offer of employment. The bill applies to all employers, unless they are exempt from the new law. Exempt employers include: those required by federal, state, or local law to consider an applicant’s criminal history; law enforcement agencies and those in the criminal justice system; and those seeking a “nonemployee” volunteer position. However, the bill does not prohibit employers from notifying applicants that they will later be required to disclose convictions or that a criminal background check will be performed as part of the hiring process, and, it expressly states it does not foreclose employers from considering convictions when making hiring decisions.

House Bill 3236 amends ORS 653.295, Oregon’s current non-competition law. It provides that non-competition agreements entered into on or after January 1, 2016, may not have a term exceeding 18 months from the date of the employee’s termination. The remainder of a term of an agreement in excess of 18 months is voidable and may not be enforced by an Oregon court. Currently, the term of non-competition agreements cannot exceed 12 months from the date of termination.

Effective January 1, 2016, House Bill 2600 requires Oregon employers to continue health insurance coverage and benefits to employees out on Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) leave. It mandates continuation of group health insurance coverage on the same terms as when the employee is not on OFLA leave, and the employee is still responsible for regular contributions to the cost of premiums. Previously, the law had no requirement for continuation of health benefits, except as required by employment agreement or policy.

Oregon also recently became the fourth state to enact a statewide paid sick time statute. House Bill 454 goes into effect on January 1, 2016. For more information related to this new law, please see Rebecca Watkins’s post HERE.

If you have additional questions regarding these new laws or how other 2015 legislative decisions may affect your employment policy, please contact me at Aevenson@sbhlegal.com. Be sure to follow our blog next week for an update on how 2015 legislation will affect Oregon workers’ compensation law.