Oregon decided to participate in New Year’s resolutions this year. As the season becomes colder, Oregon employers will be required to follow a host of new laws passed by the state legislature that will significantly affect the workplace. These laws, which go into effect Jan. 1, 2016, pertain to all restaurants, hotels, and food and beverage companies doing business in the state of Oregon. Listed below are summaries of each law that will affect your business and practices, so that you don’t have to worry over the holidays and into next year.

1.) Mandatory Sick Leave

Oregon has enacted a mandatory “sick” leave law, creating protected leave for a wide variety of absences beyond employee illness and preventing retaliation.  The law and pending regulations impose detailed requirements regarding accrual, terms of use, absence requests, verification of absences, written notice, and many more. The leave may be unpaid for smaller employers (fewer than ten employees in Oregon, or fewer than six employees in Oregon if the business has a Portland location.). The law applies statewide and preempts similar city ordinances such as those previously adopted in Portland and Eugene.

Practice Tip: Reevaluate your vacation, sick and PTO policies to determine how best to comply with the new law and revise policies before Jan. 1, 2016.

2.) Social Media

Oregon law now makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to require employees or applicants to establish and maintain personal social media accounts or to require employees or applicants to authorize the employer to advertise on their personal social media accounts. Employers are also prohibited from taking, or threatening to take, adverse action against an employee or applicant who refuses to establish or maintain a personal social media account.

Practice Tip: Train all personnel who are involved in interviewing and all managers about this new law. Add these new rules to your handbook.

3.) Ban the Box

It is now unlawful under state law for an employer to inquire into or consider an applicant’s conviction history on the application form or prior to conducting an interview or, if no interview is conducted, prior to making a conditional offer of employment. This law does not apply to certain jobs where state or federal law requires such consideration. It also does not apply to law enforcement agency-employers, to criminal justice system employers, or to employers seeking nonemployee volunteers. In addition, the City of Portland has passed a more stringent BTB ordinance that doesn’t allow inquiry until a conditional job offer, absent legal requirements allowing earlier inquiry. That law goes into effect July 1, 2016.

Practice Tip: Amend application form to exclude any questions regarding criminal history and train recruiters and hiring managers not to seek such information prior to conducting an interview or making a conditional job offer.

4.) Health Insurance Required While on OFLA The new law amends the OFLA to require an employer to continue group health insurance coverage for employees on family leave on the same terms as when the employee is not on leave. This amendment makes the OFLA consistent with the FMLA’s requirements for health insurance continuation.

Practice Tip: Amend OFLA policies to reference this additional requirement and change benefits continuation practices with your payroll or benefits departments.

5.) Non-Competition Agreements Limited to 18 Months

Under the new law, any noncompetition agreement entered into after Jan.1, 2016, must be limited to 18 months maximum. The current law is 24 months and still applies to existing noncompetition agreements. Oregon law has other very specific requirements that must be met in order for a noncompetition agreement to be enforceable.

Practice Tip: Employers with form agreements must in the future limit them to 18 months at a maximum, not two years. Such forms should be modified in advance of use.

6.) Wage Whistleblowers Protected

This new law makes it an unlawful employment action for an employer to discipline, discriminate or retaliate against an employee who has inquired, discussed or initiated any action based on the employee’s disclosure of wage information.

Practice Tip: Amend or eliminate any policy that defines wage information as confidential or prohibits employees from discussing wage information.

7.) Domestic Violence Leave

Employers must allow employees who are victims of domestic violence, harassment, sexual assault or stalking to use accrued sick leave, vacation or other available paid time off for any purpose authorized by the law.

Practice Tip: Leave policies should be amended to authorize this use.

For further information, watch our sick-leave webinar and our marijuana guide for employers.