Legislature passes worker protection bills

Bills that aim to address wage theft and the gender pay gap head to Gov. Kate Brown.

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The Oregon Legislature passed a pair of bills strengthening workers’ rights Thursday.

House Bill 2007, which makes it illegal to retaliate against an employee for discussing wages, passed the Senate 17-13.

Senate Bill 463, which allows the Bureau of Labor and Industries to act more quickly on getting back wages, passed the House 37-15.

Both are expected to be signed into law by Gov. Kate Brown.

The Associated Press reports on HB2007:

The measure makes it illegal for employers to punish workers for discussing, revealing or asking about their own pay or a co-­worker’s. Supporters say women who don’t know they’re under­paid or fear retaliation from their employer can’t fight for a fair wage. Critics said it will expose businesses to the potential for expensive lawsuits and require them to keep cumbersome paperwork to justify their salary decisions in case they’re ever challenged. Some said they were concerned about discord at work between employees whose wages differ for legitimate reasons — such as experience, skills or performance — as opposed to gender.

“This bill really is a detriment to employers,” said Sen. Alan Olsen, R-Canby. “Most employers are wise enough to make certain that their people are paid correctly and appropriately.”

Democratic proponents of the bill say it’s necessary to bring women’s wages on par with their male counterparts. The co-sponsor of the bill cited reports stating that “without action, women will not reach equal pay until 2056.”

“Oregon’s working women and their families deserve a fair shot to make a good living, and we must act now,” said Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum (D-Portland), in the release. “House Bill 2007 will help alleviate persistent gender-based disparities, and ensure that no worker fears retaliation from their employer for starting conversations about wages.”

OregonLive.com explains the ramifications of SB463:

Senate Bill 468, passed by a 37-15, vote, allows BOLI to collect on final orders and judgments not paid by offending employers within 30 days of their due date.

The new law would enable the bureau to garnish assets without incurring the costs associated with first going to civil court, BOLI officials say. Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian praised the passage of both bills as priority measures sought by his office.