The Oregon Equal Pay Act (OEPA) was enacted in 2017, and prohibits employers from engaging in pay discrimination for comparable work on the basis of certain protected characteristics. Compensation is broadly defined under the OEPA, but this definition was narrowed temporarily in response to hiring and retention obstacles facing employers as a result of COVID-19.
In order to provide flexibility to employers navigating hiring and worker retention challenges which arose during the pandemic, the OEPA was amended to include time-limited exceptions for certain forms of compensation which employers could provide to employees without adhering to OEPA’s strict equal pay requirements. These exceptions included vaccine incentives, hiring bonuses, and retention bonuses. However, these exceptions expired on September 28, 2022, the 180th day following expiration of Oregon’s state of emergency on April 1, 2022, per the terms of the legislation.
Employers should review their practices for vaccine incentives, hiring bonuses, and retention bonuses and evaluate whether such practices comport with the law’s pay equity requirements following September 28, 2022.
Background on the Oregon Equal Pay Act (OEPA)
The Oregon Equal Pay Act (OEPA) was enacted in 2017, and became generally enforceable by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries in 2019.* Here are some of the highlights of the law you should be aware of:
- The OEPA prohibits employers from engaging in pay discrimination for comparable work on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, veteran status, disability, or age.
- Employers are prohibited from reducing employee compensation in order to equalize pay amongst employees to comply with the law.
- Differential pay for comparable work is permitted in limited circumstances, if the pay structure is consistent and verifiable, and the reason for the difference in pay is based on one or more of the following bona fide factors: “a seniority system, a merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, including piece-rate work, workplace location, travel, education, training, or experience.”
- Compensation is broadly defined under the OEPA and includes wages, salary, bonuses, benefits, fringe benefits and equity-based compensation.
- Employers are required to post pay equity workplace posters.
- Employers are prohibited from retaliating against an employee and/or discriminating against an employee who makes a complaint under the law or who cooperates with an investigation related to the law.
- Employers may not screen potential candidates based upon their previous earnings history, nor may employers determine compensation for a job based on the current or past compensation of a prospective new employee, excluding internal transfers. *Employers who violate the Act’s ban on salary history inquiries may not be subject to a civil action by employees until January 1, 2024.
Additional information for employers may be found on the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries website.
Disclaimer: The information contained herein is not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. Employers should closely monitor the rules and regulations specific to their jurisdiction(s) and should seek advice from counsel relative to their rights and responsibilities.