Oregon Passes Two New Employment Law Bills

Nursing Mothers Law and a Law Expanding Unlawful Employment Discrimination

Published Wednesday, June 12, 2019

This summer is seeing a lot of movement in the employment law realm, as two additional Oregon employment law bills were signed into law.

On May 17, 2019, HB 2593, the Oregon bill regarding the expression of milk in the workplace was signed into law. HB 2593 expands and amends ORS 653.077, Oregon’s current lactation in the workplace law.

As you may already know, ORS 653.077 requires employers with 25 or more employees to provide nursing mothers with a 30-minute unpaid rest period to express milk for each 4 hours worked, or the major part of a four-hour work period. HB 2593 amends the length of these lactation breaks and what employers are covered under this law.

HB 2593 requires all employers, regardless of size, to provide nursing mothers with “a reasonable rest period to express milk each time the employee has a need to express milk.” This verbiage allows nursing mothers to take unpaid lactation breaks “as needed.” While these rest breaks are unpaid, there is an exception if a nonexempt employee takes their lactation break during a paid rest period. Moreover, while HB 2593 applies to all Oregon employers, there is an undue hardship exception for employers with 10 or fewer employees.

In line with ORS 657.077, HB 2593 continues to allow nursing mothers to take lactation breaks up until the employee’s child is eighteen months old. Additionally, an employer still needs to make "reasonable" efforts to provide a private location that is in close proximity to employee's workspace to express milk and the location cannot be a public restroom or toilet stall.

"Reasonable efforts" as defined under Oregon law means "efforts that do not impose an undue hardship on the operation of an employer’s business." Moreover, Oregon law defines "Undue Hardship" as "significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature or structure of the employer’s business." It should be noted that the “reasonable” efforts provision to provide a private location is applicable to Oregon employers with 50 or fewer employees. Under federal law, employers with 50 or more employees must provide a private location regardless of any undue hardship that may create.

HB 2593 will likely take effect on October 1, 2019.

On June 12, 2019, four weeks after HB 2593 was signed into law, SB 726, a bill expanding what constitutes unlawful employment discrimination, was also signed into law. This law amends and adds to ORS 659A.030, ORS 659A.082, and ORS 659A.112, which are Oregon’s current discrimination in employment statutes.

Effective October 1, 2020, under SB 726, it will be considered an unlawful employment practice for an employer to enter into an agreement, such as a nondisclosure or nondisparagement agreement, which would prevent an employee from disclosing or discussing conduct that constitutes unlawful discrimination, including sexual assault. Additionally, employers will need to update employee handbooks to include a policy that contains specific procedures and practices to prevent unlawful employment discrimination under SB 726.

Moreover, the current statute of limitations for filing an employment discrimination complaint either civilly or through the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) is one year. SB 726 extends the statute of limitations for those claims to five years after the occurrence of the illegal employment conduct. The new five year statute of limitations section of SB 726 will apply to unlawful employment conduct that occurs on or after the effective date of the law, which will likely be October 1, 2019.

Cascade will keep you updated on SB 726 and HB 2593. If you have any questions, let us know!

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