3…2…1… Happy new worker protections!!

By Corinna Spencer-Scheurich, NWJP's Deputy Director.
Photo by Sanja Gjenero, Freeimages.com

Our advocacy work with the Coalition to Stop Wage Theft and in the Fair Shot for All Coalition helped Oregon ring in the New Year with some important new protections for low-wage workers!

Here is a quick overview of the changes:


Starting this year, workers across Oregon will have a right to accrue sick leave. Those who work for an employer with 10 or more employees (or six or more in Portland) must receive paid sick leave. Workers will accrue at least one hour of sick time for every 30 hours of work, up to a total of 40 hours a year. In this day and age, it's amazing that we're celebrating a legislative victory about simple human dignity, but for the thousands of Oregonians who couldn't afford to stay home to rest and recover from an illness before, it's a big deal. This new protection will ensure that workers do not have to choose between their health — or the health of their children or their co-workers — and their livelihood.


Keeping workers from discussing their salaries with co-workers was a powerful way to keep wage inequality alive. In an effort to achieve equal pay for equal work, however, workers are now protected from retaliation if they discuss their wages or the wages of their co-workers. And workers can now sue in Oregon courts to protect this right, which will allow them to better identify discrimination in pay.


People with criminal histories, often members of the most vulnerable populations (people of color, those who cannot afford proper representation, those with mental illness or addictions to drugs and alcohol, among others), face unfair barriers to employment even after they have already served their time.  Even where workers have turned their lives around, it is often impossible to find work. This results in a growing subclass of workers who are subject to exploitation and poverty. Oregon has taken an important first step in protecting workers with criminal conviction histories from unfair job discrimination in hiring. It is now illegal to require an applicant to disclose a criminal conviction on an employment application or prior to an initial interview.


In recognition of the hard work and often grueling conditions that domestic workers face, an array of new protections have gone into effect in the New Year. Housekeepers and in-home child care providers will now be entitled to overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours a week (or 44 if they live in the home). They also will be entitled to 24 consecutive hours of rest each week and must receive eight hours of uninterrupted sleep to be considered off-the-clock. If they work at least an average of 30 hours a week, they are entitled to receive three paid personal leave days a year. They are now also protected from discriminatory harassment and from confiscation of their passports if they are immigrant workers.


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