Employment bills move forward in Oregon legislature

LEGISLATIVE ROUNDUP: Social media and employment bill passes Senate; House approves measure allowing workers to discuss wages.

Share this article!


Employers cannot require an employee to maintain a social media account under a bill that could be passed today by the Oregon Senate.

The Statesman Journal’s Laura Fosmire reports on the measure that was proposed by Sen. Brian Boquist (R-Dallas) at the behest of his wife.

Boquist’s wife told Fosmire that she was inspired by a story she heard from a retired Navy man who didn’t get an interview for a job because he didn’t have a Facebook account.

“They said, ‘Well, get a Facebook (account) and we’ll interview you,’ ” Boquist recalled in her public testimony before a Senate committee on Feb. 18. “He said, ‘I’m not going to have one.’ So he did not get the interview.”

After her testimony, the bill was unanimously approved by the Senate Workforce Committee, and the Senate will vote on the bill today (Wednesday, March 4).

The Oregon Legislature is no stranger to legislation related to social media. A bill passed in the previous session prohibited employers from seeking certain information, such as usernames or passwords, from their employees’ social media accounts.

House passes bill allowing workers to discuss wages

There’s nothing protecting employees from discussing how much they’re paid under current law.

The Oregon House of Representatives voted in favor of a measure Tuesday that would allow workers freedom to talk about how much they’re paid, the Associated Press reports.

The measure is an attempt to lessen the gender pay gap, according to its sponsor Rep. Shemia Fagan (D-Clackamas):

Fagan says studies show women in particular are wary of discussing or inquiring about raises or salaries out of concern they might be disciplined. “This is a simple and modest first step to making sure that Oregon women earn equal pay for equal work,” she said.

Legislators opposed to the proposal argue it could damage the relationship between employers and employees while sowing seeds of discontent and distrust amongst coworkers. Others worried it could impede employers from firing workers for other reasons, who could then retaliate by suing them under the guise of wage protection.

The bill will go to the Senate after the House passed it 34-24.

Trio of health-care related bills being mulled

Changes to policies regarding hospital pricing and vasectomies are being considered in the Oregon Legislature.

SB 891 would require clinics and online providers to list prices, as well as real-time price requests, the Portland Business Journal reports:

“Just having the information out there will transform the way health care works in the state,” said OSPIRG Health Care Advocate Jesse O’Brien. “It’s a way to create a more level playing field, so consumers can shop around and providers can compete on price.”

The other bill, SB 900, would allow hospitals to post fewer details regarding pricing data to the Oregon Health Authority’s site. The bill has seven sponsors and is supported by the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.

“The key message here is everyone acknowledges that driving improvements in price transparency is critical,” said Robin Moody, the association’s vice president of public policy. “Consumers want it and it’s necessary for a healthy marketplace.”

Finally, a bill — proposed as a response to long waits for patients requesting vasectomies at Planned Parenthood — aims to allow nurse practitioners to perform the surgery.

The Portland Business Journal reports on the measure being discussed in the House:

“This is far too long to wait for pregnancy prevention,” Terrill Patten said in a letter to the House Health Care Committee, which held a hearing on the bill.

HB 2678 would remove the unnecessary prohibition and bring Oregon policy in line with the current scope of practice for trained nurse practitioners, she said. Washington allows nurse practitioners to perform vasectomies.

Changes coming to payments from class-action lawsuits

A bill that would alter the way the state handles payments from class-action lawsuits has passed the Legislature and is headed to new Gov. Kate Brown’s desk.

The Statesman Journal explains the bill:

The bill would require at least half the unclaimed money in a class action lawsuit to be given to the Oregon State Bar’s legal aid fund and sometimes to a cause related to the subject of the suit (an environmental nonprofit in a case regarding pollution, for example). This process is called “cy pres,” and Oregon is in the minority of states that do not require it as part of the class action process. Rather, a defendant may keep the unclaimed money.

HB 2700 creates a requirement that half of unclaimed funds go to legal aid. However, it also changes how a class is described, and it is retroactive to affect at least one class action case already in Oregon’s courts.

The Associated Press expands on the bill that invoked a vote along party lines:

Democrats say they want to make sure businesses don’t get to keep the money they’d owe those people who don’t claim their portion of the judgment. They say they’re not targeting BP or trying to help trial lawyers, who are significant supporters to Democratic campaigns.

Based on the public debate, “you would think that this is a bill that’s about lawyers, or legal procedures, and to me, noting could be further from the truth,” said Sen. Diane Rosenbaum, D-Portland. “This is a bill that will affect the lives of real people. People who have been wronged.”

RFK Jr. to show vaccine film in Salem

Outspoken anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is inviting Oregon lawmakers to watch a documentary that says vaccinations can be dangerous.

The Statesman Journal reports:

The invitation came via emails to senators on Monday. Sens. Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-Gresham, Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, D-Beaverton, and Tim Knopp, R-Bend, confirmed to the Statesman Journal that they were invited to the screening. Knopp said on Tuesday that Kennedy reached out to him on Sunday — presumably because Knopp is leading the opposition against Senate Bill 442 — and said he was interested in talking with the senators about the bill.

In the email that was obtained by the Statesman Journal, Kennedy writes that lawmakers and their staffers are invited to the screening of the documentary “Trace Amounts” at Cinebarre in downtown Salem and that he plans to hold a question-and-answer session afterward.






Latest from Oregon Business Team