Oregon employers: are you ready for the Workplace Fairness Act?

The Workplace Fairness Act goes into full effect on October 1, 2020. This Act adds to Oregon’s existing discrimination and harassment laws, extending statutes of limitations and requiring employers to have specific policies and practices in place to address workplace discrimination. While it arose out of the #MeToo movement, it is not limited to sexual harassment and broadly covers discrimination on the basis of race, age, disability, gender, religion, marital status, etcetera – all the protected classes within ORS 659A.030. Under the Workplace Fairness Act, all Oregon employers need to have a policy including specific provisions to give employees at hire and when a complaint is made. BOLI has now posted a sample policy on its website, available here. If… Continue reading

Oregon OSHA will Adopt Rules Addressing the COVID-19 Emergency

stephen verotskyRecently, Oregon OSHA announced it has begun work on temporary rules addressing the COVID-19 emergency. The target date for the rules is September 1st and is expected to remain in effect through February 2021. The rules will be completed in consultation with the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), Public Health and other technical advisors and affected stakeholders. Although Oregon OSHA has only begun its rule making process, it has been actively investigating COVID-19 related complaints. Since early March, Oregonians have filed approximately 5,500 workplace complaints related to the pandemic. For example, numerous complaints relate to employees not utilizing face coverings and not maintaining physical distancing. These complaints can translate into inspections and costly citations for employers. Oregon OSHA does not currently… Continue reading

The Oregon Court of Appeals doubles down on the two-prong Roseburg Forest test making it easier for a presumptively responsible employer to shift responsibility

In April 2020, the Court of Appeals issued a significant decision regarding responsibility cases. In NAES Corporation v. SCI 3.2, Inc., 303 Or. App. 684 (2020), the issue was whether the Board erroneously focused on “probability” and not “possibility” of contribution in determining that claimant’s prior work exposure was the sole cause of his hearing loss such that the presumptively responsible employer could successfully shift its responsibility backwards. Claimant worked as a boilermaker for various employers from 1966 through 2012 when he retired. At that time, he was working for NAES. Following his retirement, claimant worked seasonally for SCI fabricating parade floats from 2013 through 2016. This seasonal work involved sawing, welding, grinding, and hammering. In 2014, claimant was diagnosed… Continue reading

SBH Video Series: PPP Loans and Return to Work

SBH is excited to announce it will be producing a series of short videos addressing various issues employers are facing during the COVID-19 Crisis and beyond. Join Megan Vaniman as she discusses PPP loans and forgiveness. Slides used in the video are available here. The video is also available on SBH’s YouTube Channel.    

Washington State Announces 2020 COLA Increase; Affects Temporary Disability Payments Starting July 1st

Under RCW 51.32.075 temporary disability benefits are recalculated July 1st of each year to reflect changes in the states average wage. According to the Washington State Employment Security Department, the statewide average wage for 2019 was $69,700. This represents a 6.7% increase from 2018 average wage of $65,301; the largest increase since 1999. The Department of Labor and Industries has provided updated information on how to apply the COLA here. Please note the COLA does not apply to temporary disability payments until the second July after the date of injury, unless a worker’s temporary disability rate is set at the minimum or maximum temporary disability rate. Have questions about this year’s COLA increase? Feel free to contact me at 503-595-6110 or dwhite@sbhlegal.com.

Oregon minimum wage increase on July 1st

With everything else going on right now, the yearly increase in minimum wage may not be the first thing on any employer’s mind. Don’t forget to make those hourly rate adjustments, effective July 1, 2020. Oregon has a region-specific minimum wage, so confirm which region applies your employees here. The standard minimum wage increases to $12.00/hour. Those within the Portland metro area increase to $13.25/hour, and non-urban counties increase to $11.50/hour. If you have any questions about wage and hour issues, feel free to give me a call at 503-595-2134 or email at rwatkins@sbhlegal.com    

Annual Adjustment of Attorney Fees in Workers’ Compensation Claims in Oregon

The Oregon Workers’ Compensation Board recently issued a revised Bulletin No. 1 addressing the maximum attorney fee under several statutes. The attorney fees affected by the revised bulletin are provided in ORS 656.262(11)(a) (unreasonable delay or refusal to pay compensation or accept or deny), ORS 656.262(14)(a) (claimant attorney participation in claimant’s statement or deposition), and ORS 656.308(2)(d) (responsibility denial). The maximum attorney fee amount is adjusted annually on July 1 by the same percentage increase, if any, as made to the state’s average weekly wage (SAWW) under ORS 656.211. The reasonable hourly rate for an attorney’s time spent during a claimant’s interview or deposition pursuant to ORS 656.262(14)(a) is also adjusted by the same percentage on July 1. Effective July… Continue reading

Claims Examiner Certification Renewal in Oregon and COVID-19

Three months into the pandemic, we have all seen changes in both our daily lives and in our professional lives. One of these changes has been the cancellation of several conferences and seminars which provide the continuing education units (CEUs) required for recertification. Under OAR 436-055-0070, claims examiners are required to complete 24 hours of training within a three-year cycle. These CEUs include at least 6 hours on ORS chapter 656 and OAR chapter 436, at least one hour on interactions with IME providers, and additional training related to medical case management, communication skills, and claims processing skills. Thankfully, the administrative rules provide a 12-month grace period to renew certification. During the grace period, an examiner is still “certified” under… Continue reading

Back to Basics: While easy to overlook during the COVID-19 pandemic, double checking details in Washington Claims is still as important as ever

As the impacts of COVID-19 continue to occur and affect people and businesses, it is easy to get swept up in the breadth of complexities this pandemic has created. While businesses grapple with safety, financial, and personnel issues and decisions, day-to-day business details can get lost in the shuffle. Among these details, important items such as workers’ compensation time loss benefits and the proper calculation of amounts due to injured workers are certainly easily placed on the back burner or perhaps overlooked entirely. While it is understandable that issues such as worker safety and social distancing concerns, furloughs, and remote workers may take precedence right now, improper or simply incorrect time loss calculations in a Department of Labor & Industries… Continue reading