As of Jan. 1, Oregon will have one of the most comprehensive pay equity laws in the country. But state labor regulators just finalized the rules and have done an inadequate job of explaining them to employers.
If employers don’t fix pay gaps by Jan. 1 — even if the pay gaps are unintentional, they could face penalties or lawsuits.
Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, was deservedly harsh with his criticism of the state Bureau of Labor and Industries on Wednesday. He worked with Democrats to create the law, passed in 2017. BOLI only finished up the complicated rules for the law in November.
“It is really disappointing to hear that out of nearly 130,000 Oregon employers that BOLI has had contact with maybe 5,000 of them, when we have a significant new law going into effect,” Knopp said, during a meeting of the Senate Workforce Committee, according to the Oregon Capital Bureau.
Not only has BOLI failed to contact thousands of Oregon employers, go to BOLI’s homepage and there is no easy-to-find web link to the important changes in the law — at least as of Thursday morning.
In some ways, the rules are common sense. Employers can’t discriminate when they pay employees for comparable work. Things get complicated in the definition of comparable work and what qualifies as a “bona fide” exception. Another provision of the law is that employers can’t screen potential employees based on their salary history. They only can ask after an employment offer with a salary is made.
Why didn’t BOLI get its rules done sooner and do a better job of informing businesses?
“I don’t know if I have a good answer,” Christine Lewis, spokeswoman for state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, told the committee.
The new head of BOLI, Val Hoyle, takes office Jan 7. It may not be a moment too soon. BOLI’s implementation of this law has been no way to treat employers, employees or legislators. Hoyle has had the good sense to say she will be lenient with employers because BOLI came out so late with the rules.