OREGON: Governor signs bills on veterans discrimination and jury duty
Governor Kitzhaber has signed two employment-related bills that affect Oregon employers:
HB 2241 expands the types of military service that is entitled to protection from employment discrimination under state law. The good news is that this list is now more consistent with the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Previously, state law didn’t cover the U.S. Public Health Service or the catchall of “any other category of persons designated by the President of the United States in time of war or national emergency.” This bill is effective immediately.
HB 2828 makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to stop health, disability, life or other insurance coverage for a worker who is serving or scheduled to serve as a juror, if the worker chooses to continue coverage. If an employer pays the worker’s portion of the premium, the employer can collect it through payroll deductions after the worker returns to work, capped at a maximum of 10 percent of gross wages. If the worker doesn’t return, then the employer may deduct any remaining amounts from the worker’s final paycheck, or use any other legal means (such as small claims court) to recover the amounts owed. Workers may file complaints with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) or file a lawsuit. This bill is effective on January 1, 2012.
Tips: The jury duty bill raises some questions that we would hope to see addressed in regulations. Logically, we believe you would only be required to pay your usual employer portion of the premium during jury duty, but the language is a bit unclear. Fortunately, periods of jury duty service that are long enough to cause an employee to drop below the required number of hours for insurance coverage are rare, but you still need to be prepared. Coordinate with your insurance carriers to ensure that you can continue the coverage without violating your insurance contracts or (for self-insured employers) stop loss agreements.