COVID-19 Era Amendment to the Oregon Equal Pay Act to Become Permanent?
Under the current version of the Oregon Equal Pay Act, employers are prohibited from paying an employee a higher rate than a coworker for similar work unless the pay disparity is justified by “bona fide factors” such as seniority, merit, travel, education, training, or experience. All types of compensation including benefits and bonuses are considered in determining if there is a pay disparity. The requirement that bonuses be considered in evaluating pay equity can make it difficult for employers to pay hiring or retention bonuses without running afoul of the Oregon Equal Pay Act.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the law was temporarily amended to exempt hiring and retention bonuses from pay equity considerations but this temporary amendment expired in September 2022. The purpose of the emergency amendment was to address worker shortages created by the pandemic by allowing employers to pay hiring and retention bonuses without needing to consider them as “compensation” under the Equal Pay Act.
House Bill 3205 is currently in the Senate awaiting a vote. This bill essentially makes the COVID-19 amendment permanent and permits employers to pay employees at different compensation levels pursuant to hiring and retention bonuses provided that employer does not discriminate in payment of retention bonus, and that retention bonus accounts for entire compensation differential. The bill was supported by both public and private employers including TriMet, Washington County, Oregon State University, and UPS to address the ongoing worker shortage that has persisted even after the pandemic.
We are watching this bill closely to see if it passes this legislative session which ends on June 25, 2023. If you have any questions about HB 3205 or the Oregon Equal Pay Act, feel free to contact me at