Karen O'Connor

Karen O'Connor

Karen O’Connor is a partner in the firm’s Labor & Employment group whose practice includes counseling and litigation on complex employment issues including leave laws, workplace harassment and discrimination, discipline and documentation, and drug and alcohol issues. She represents clients before Oregon and Washington state and federal courts and in administrative proceedings. Karen co-teaches in the human resources program at Portland State University and is a frequent speaker in the community.

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Oregon Orders a Statewide “Freeze” Due to COVID-19 Surge, Closing Some Businesses, Restricting Bars and Restaurants to Takeout, and Further Limiting Social Gatherings

On November 13, 2020, after concluding that the previously proposed two-week “pause” did not go far enough, Governor Kate Brown announced a two-week statewide “freeze” aimed at slowing the rapid spread of COVID-19. The statewide freeze starts on Wednesday, November 18 and runs through December 2, 2020, meaning that the freeze will be in place … Continue Reading

OR-OSHA Publishes Model Infection Control Policy Required by New COVID- 19 Rules

On November 6, 2020, the Oregon Occupational Health and Safety Administration (“OR-OSHA”) published final temporary rules for workplace safety protections specific to COVID-19. Our alert about the new rules is available here. Among other requirements, the new rules require employers to adopt a COVID-19 Infection Notification policy for notifying exposed and affected employees of possible … Continue Reading

Take Action to Comply with OR-OSHA’s Final Temporary COVID-19 Safety Rules

On November 6, 2020, the Oregon Occupational Health and Safety Administration (“OR-OSHA”) published final temporary rules for workplace safety protections specific to COVID-19. The text of the final rules is available on OR-OSHA’s website. The effective date for the new rules is November 16, 2020, although the timeline for different requirements under the rules varies. … Continue Reading

Oregon Has Updated Face Covering and Mask Requirements

The Oregon Health Authority has again modified the state’s requirements for masks and face coverings. The new guidance expands the face covering requirements we wrote about here and here. The new guidance can be found here. Masks are now required in both public and private workplaces unless the employee’s job does not require interacting with the … Continue Reading

Oregon Employment Department Sponsors “Town Halls” to Discuss Paid Family and Medical Leave Program

As many of you know, in 2019 the Oregon Legislature passed (and Governor Brown signed) HB 2005, which creates a Paid Family and Medical Leave program for Oregon employees. Our original blog posts about the new law are here and here. The Oregon Employment Department has launched listening sessions for employers and employees across Oregon … Continue Reading

FFCRA Update: DOL Issues New Guidance Regarding Childcare Leave

The DOL recently updated its guidance regarding when childcare leave can be taken under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (or “FFCRA”).  FFCRA requires most employers to provide employees with up to 12 weeks of protected leave, paid at 2/3rds the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to a maximum of $200 a day (reimbursed … Continue Reading

Updates on Use of FFCRA Leave for Childcare this Summer

As we previously discussed here, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave to eligible employees whose school or place of childcare is unavailable due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  New guidance from the Department of Labor (which can be found … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Rules That Title VII Protects LGBT Employees

Today the United States Supreme Court answered the question of whether Title VII, the federal law that prohibits workplace discrimination “on the basis of sex,” protects LGBT employees with a resounding “Yes.”  In a 6-3 decision, the Court held that: “The answer is clear. An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender … Continue Reading

Ten Things to Consider In Getting Back to Work

As restrictions are easing, employers are planning for and starting to bring people back to work.  In these extraordinary times, everyone recognizes that things will not be business as usual.  Here is our “Top 10” checklist of things to consider as we move toward the “new normal.” Reluctant Returners. Many employees are eager to return … Continue Reading

Staying Connected with Your Employees: Temporary Hours Reduction or Work Share Program?

Employers facing changes in their business or broader economic downturns must find ways to respond and weather the storm.  Typically, this means cutting expenses, while maintaining their ability to operate.  For many (if not most) businesses, payroll is the single largest expense item.  And when business slows, employees are left with excess capacity and are … Continue Reading

FFCRA Leave for Childcare Closures May Extend Beyond the End of the School Year

Thank you to everyone who attended our webinar on Taming the COVID-19 Chaos, Part 6—Bringing Employees Back to Work.  If you missed it, be on the lookout for details on future webinars to help employers navigate these challenging times. We received some questions about whether employees can continue to use FFCRA leave after the end … Continue Reading

Changes to Oregon Unemployment Insurance and Oregon Family Leave Act in Light of COVID-19

On March 18, 2020, Oregon issued temporary rules to help employees impacted by COVID-19. The Oregon Employment Department issued temporary rules expanding the availability of unemployment insurance to those impacted by COVID-19, while the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (“BOLI”) issued a temporary rule expanding the availability of the Oregon Family Leave Act (“OFLA”) … Continue Reading

Congress Passes Legislation to Provide Paid Leave to Employees During COVID-19 Emergency

On March 18, 2020, the Senate passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, (the “Act”), which was passed by the House last week.  President Trump swiftly signed the legislation, which is effective in 15 days.  All public employers and private employers with under 500 employees are covered by the Act, which provides for emergency paid … Continue Reading

House of Representatives Takes Steps to Provide Paid Leave to Employees Absent due to COVID-19; Senate Must Still Act

We are continuing to monitor developing issues facing employers due to the outbreak of COVID-19.  The latest is from Congress. On March 13, the US House of Representatives passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, (the “Act”) to  provide for emergency paid sick and family and medical leave for some employees around the country.  Public … Continue Reading

COVID-19 – Information Updates

We continue to stay up to speed on workplace-related legal issues as we all navigate this challenging time. Many of you attended the webinar we put on today, Taming the COVID-19 Chaos: What Employers Need to Know.  The materials from that presentation are available here.  Please join us for another webinar next Wednesday, March 18; … Continue Reading

Tips For Employers to Mitigate Issues Related to COVID-19 Outbreak

With COVID-19 (coronavirus) impacting communities in the Northwest and around the U.S. and world, employers are wondering what role they can play in keeping their employees safe and healthy. Don’t panic! Your current policies and practices are probably sufficient to handle any issues that may affect your workplace. But here are some general recommendations. (See … Continue Reading

Oregon Enacts Paid Family Leave

Starting in 2023, Oregon employers with at least 25 employees must provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of paid leave for a covered purpose (family, medical, or “safe” leave). The program will be funded with payroll contributions (40% employer/60% employee), the amount of which depends on an employee’s wages. Benefit amounts will be … Continue Reading

Oregon’s Workplace Fairness Act Means Major Changes for Oregon Employers

Oregon’s Legislature just enacted the most significant legislation for Oregon employers in years.  The new Workplace Fairness Act has been hailed as a #MeToo law and seems intended to curb incidents of sexual harassment in the workplace, but its reach is significantly broader than that. Key Changes and Takeaways Employers are now required to have … Continue Reading

Pay Equity: 10 Things for Oregon Employers to Do Before the End of the Year

Oregon’s new Equal Pay Act and “Pay Equity Analyses” are all the rage in Oregon right now. The majority of the Act’s new requirements go into effect January 1, 2019. Let’s talk about 10 things you should do before the end of the year to make sure you are in compliance with the law. If … Continue Reading

Oregon’s Secure Scheduling Law Goes into Effect July 1: Are You Ready?

The 2017 Oregon legislature passed a “secure scheduling” or “fair work week” law that imposes significant requirements on certain categories of large employers.  The law, available here, goes into effect July 1, 2018.  We previously blogged about the law here. Are You a Covered Employer?  The law applies to retail, hospitality, and food services employers … Continue Reading

Oregon Amends Sick Leave Law: 5 Key Clarifications

Oregon recently passed amendments to its statewide sick time law, clearing up several areas of uncertainty for employers.  The amendments clarify that: Employers may cap employees’ annual accrual of sick leave at 40 hours. The pre-amendment version of the sick leave law stated that employees had the right to “earn and use up to 40 … Continue Reading

Another Setback for Student Athletes … or Is It?

On December 5, 2016, Berger v. National Collegiate Athletic Association brought a major setback for those advocating that “student athletes” deserve to be compensated for their contributions to the multi-billion-dollar industry of college sports. The plaintiffs were two former “student athletes” at the University of Pennsylvania (“Penn”) who participated on the women’s track and field team.  … Continue Reading

Breaking News: DOL Salary Rule Blocked By Federal Judge

The Department of Labor’s controversial rule that required “white collar” employees to be paid at least $47,476 per year in order to be exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act will NOT go into effect on December 1, 2016 as planned (we wrote about the rule here).  A Texas federal judge on Tuesday agreed with 21 … Continue Reading

OSHA Promotes Workplace Safety by . . . Limiting Drug and Alcohol Testing?

Employers that promote workplace safety by ensuring workers are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol after they suffer a workplace injury will soon face greater scrutiny from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”).  A new OSHA rule that goes into effect August 10, 2016 casts serious doubt on whether employers can lawfully … Continue Reading
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