Don't HR Alone #11 - Unions, Unemployment, and Equal Pay Laws

June 5, 2017

 

Oregon Governor Brown signs legislation to expand pay equity protections to include all protected classes — OREGON — Equal pay

Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed legislation on June 1 that expands pay equity protections to Oregonians.

 

“Pay inequity can keep women in relationships they don't want to be in and can keep women of color working two or three jobs,” Governor Brown said. “I applaud the Legislature's bipartisan efforts to pass the Pay Equity Bill and make great strides toward a more equitable and prosperous Oregon.”

 

House Bill 2005 strengthens existing protections by making it an unlawful practice to discriminate between employees on the basis of a protected class in the payment of wages or other compensation for work of comparable character, creates new provisions to ensure an individual's past salary does not hold them back when applying for a new job, and encourages all employers to conduct a pay equity study, just as the state has recently done.

 

The measure prohibits payment of wages or other compensation to any employee at a rate greater than that which an employer pays employees of a protected class for work of comparable character.

 

In addition, the law prohibits employers from screening job applicants based on past or current compensation or from determining wages for a prospective employee based on past or current compensation. However, the law does not prevent an employer from considering the compensation of a current employee during a transfer, move or hire of the employee to a new position with the same employer.

 

“Compensation” under the law includes wages, salary, bonuses, benefits, fringe benefits and equity-based compensation. “Protected class” means a group of persons distinguished by race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, veteran status, disability or age. “Work of comparable character” means work that requires substantially similar knowledge, skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions in the performance of work, regardless of job description or job title.

Employers would be able to pay employees for work of comparable character at different compensation levels if all of the difference in compensation levels is based on a bona fide factor related to the position in question and is based on: (a) a seniority system; (b) a merit system; (c) a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, including piece-rate work; (d) workplace locations; (e) travel, if necessary and regular for the employee; (f) education; (g) training; (h) experience; or (i) any combination of these factors, if the combination accounts for the entire compensation differential.

 

Employers are prohibited from reducing the compensation level of any employee to comply with this law.

 

Employers who violate the law would be required to pay an award of back pay for the lesser of:

(a) the two-year period immediately preceding the filing of a complaint plus the period of time starting the date the complaint is filed and ending on the date on which the Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries issued a final order to pay the back pay; or

(b) the period of time the complainant was subject to an unlawful wage differential by the employer plus the period of time starting on the date the complaint is filed and ending on the date on which the Commissioner issued the order.

 

The court may also award punitive damages if there is clear evidence that the employer engaged in fraud, acted with malice, or acted with willful and wanton misconduct or was previously adjudicated in a proceeding for violating the law.

 

Employers would be able to file a motion to disallow compensatory and punitive damages by demonstrating that the employer: (1) completed, within three years before the date the employee filed an action, an equal pay analysis of the employer’s pay practices in good faith that was (a) reasonable in detail and scope to the size of the employer and (b) related to the protected class asserted by the plaintiff in the action; (2) eliminated the wage differentials for the plaintiff and has made reasonable and substantial progress towards eliminating wage differentials for the protective class asserted by the plaintiff.

 

Employers will be required to post notice of the requirements of the pay equity law in every establishment where employees work. The Bureau of Labor and Industries is to make available a template for employers to meet the required notice posting requirement. Oregon’s pay equity law applies to both private and public employers.

 

The amendment by H.B. 2005 has multiple effective dates, with most of the changes taking effect on January 1, 2019.

 

Source: State of Oregon, Office of the Governor, News Release, May 31, 2017, http://www.oregon.gov/newsroom/Pages/NewsDetail.aspx?newsid=2086; H.B. 2005, L. 2017, https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2017R1/Downloads/MeasureDocument/HB2005/Enrolled

 

Payroll employment rises by 138,000 in May; unemployment rate changes little — SURVEY RESULTS

 

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 138,000 in May, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 4.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported June 2. The number of unemployed persons, at 6.9 million, was also changed little in May. Since January, the unemployment rate has declined by 0.5 percentage point, and the number of unemployed has decreased by 774,000. Job gains occurred in professional and business services (+38,000), food services and drinking places (+30,000), health care (+24,000) and mining (+7,000). Employment in other major industries, including construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, and government, showed little change over the month.

 

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for Whites edged down to 3.7 percent in May. The jobless rates for Blacks (7.5 percent), Asians (3.6 percent), and Hispanics (5.2 percent), as well as those for adult men (3.8 percent), adult women (4.0 percent), and teenagers (14.3 percent), showed little or no change.

 

Among the unemployed, the number of job losers and persons who completed temporary jobs declined by 211,000 to 3.3 million in May. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged over the month at 1.7 million and accounted for 24.0 percent of the unemployed.

 

The labor force participation rate declined by 0.2 percentage point to 62.7 percent in May but has shown no clear trend over the past 12 months. The employment-population ratio edged down to 60.0 percent in May.

 

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) was little changed at 5.2 million in May. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.

 

In May, 1.5 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, down by 238,000 from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.

 

Among the marginally attached, there were 355,000 discouraged workers in May, down by 183,000 from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.1 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in May had not searched for work for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.

 

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 

New law in Missouri nixes union-only project labor agreements — STATE LAW

 

On May 30, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens signed a bill that bars union-only project labor agreements within the state and repeals provisions of law that allow the state or any political subdivision to enter into such agreements. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, well known for his anti-union sentiments, was a guest at the signing of the legislation, according to media reports.

Current Missouri law prohibits the state, or any agency or instrumentality of the state, from requiring or prohibiting bidders from entering into agreements with labor organizations when entering into contracts for the construction of public projects funded more than 50 percent by the state.

 

The newly minted law, S.B. 182, which cleared the state legislature on April 27, 2017, removes the 50 percent threshold and altogether prohibits the state, any agency, or political subdivision, or instrumentality of the state, from requiring or prohibiting bidders from entering into agreements with labor organizations on contracts for the construction, repair, remodeling, or demolition of a facility. The bill also bars the state, any agency, political subdivision, or instrumentality of the state, from encouraging or giving preferential treatment to bidders who enter or refuse to enter into agreements with a labor organization.

 

Violators are liable to the person affected for equitable damages as well as reasonable attorney's fees, and are not eligible for state funding, including tax credits for a period of two years.

 

Effective date. S.B. 182 is effective August 28, 2017.

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