Karen O'Connor

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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 Pay Equity Update: The Status of Hiring Bonuses

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Oregon legislature amended the definition of “compensation” in the Oregon Equal Pay Act to temporarily exempt hiring/signing and retention bonuses from the limitations imposed by the Act.  The temporary exemption, however, expires on September 28, 2022. This means that starting September 28, 2022, hiring/signing/retention bonuses will once … Continue Reading

Oregon Supreme Court Enforces Employment Arbitration Agreement

Oregon employers that require arbitration for employment-related disputes recently received some good news from the Oregon Supreme Court.  In Gist v. ZoAn Management, Inc., the Court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that his arbitration agreement was unenforceable because it limited the arbitrator’s authority to award him relief.  Instead, the Court ruled that the arbitration clause was … Continue Reading

COVID-19 Vaccine and Mask Mandates – Comparison of Select States

On January 13, 2022, the United States Supreme Court issued a stay of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (“OSHA”) COVID vaccine-or-test rule for large employers. Although the OSHA rule is effectively off the table, there are still a host of COVID rules that employers must comply with. Stoel Rives has created an interactive map … Continue Reading

Federal Court Allows OSHA Vaccine-Or-Test Rule To Move Forward

In a decision released late in the day on Friday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit lifted a stay against the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (“OSHA”) rule requiring employers with 100+ employees either to require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or to submit to weekly COVID-19 testing and … Continue Reading

Oregon OSHA Announces Plans to Sunset Portions of Its COVID-19 Safety Rules Once Vaccination Target Is Reached

Late last week, Governor Kate Brown announced that the State of Oregon would largely remove its mask and social-distancing requirements once 70 percent of adult Oregonians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.  Following that announcement, the Oregon Occupational Health and Safety Administration (“OR-OSHA”) published its plans to repeal at least some … Continue Reading

Headline: EEOC Releases Updated COVID-19 Vaccine Guidance

Just before we headed off for the holiday weekend, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) released updated guidance related to the COVID-19 vaccine.  The guidance largely tracks earlier guidance and practices that many employers had already adopted.  Here are the highlights: The EEOC explicitly confirmed that federal anti-discrimination laws “do not prevent an employer … Continue Reading

Oregon Agencies Release New COVID-19 Guidance for Fully Vaccinated Individuals

On May 18, 2021, the Oregon Health Authority (“OHA”) published new COVID-19 guidance: “Interim Guidance for Fully Vaccinated Individuals” and “Statewide Reopening Guidance – Masks, Face Coverings, Face Shields.”  Today, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OR-OSHA”) issued guidance for the workplace.  The new guidance from the agencies follows the Centers for Disease Control … Continue Reading

Minimum Wage Increase and Updated Workplace Posters

It’s that time of year to prepare for minimum wage increases and update workplace posters.  Beginning July 1, minimum wage rates throughout Oregon increase, to $14.00 for Portland Metro, $12.00 for Nonurban Counties, and $12.75 as Standard. (See here for descriptions of the areas in each category.)  BOLI’s 2021-2022 Commonly Required Postings in Oregon Poster, … Continue Reading

Do Employees Still Have to Wear a Mask?

Please note: The information below is based on what we know today, and that rules and regulations are literally changing daily. Employers need to be nimble and flexible – check your local rules on a daily basis. As more and more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine, employees are starting to ask questions about mask requirements.  … Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Rules That Per Diem Payments Must Be Included in Regular Rate Under the FLSA

It’s common knowledge that an employee’s overtime rate is “time and a half” the regular rate of pay.  But that truism begs the question: what exactly is the regular rate of pay?  Earlier this week, the Ninth Circuit analyzed whether the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) required a company to include per diem payments that … Continue Reading

Oregon OSHA Proposes Final, Permanent COVID-19 Safety Rules for Oregon Employers

As many of you know, effective November 16, 2020, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OR OSHA”) adopted a comprehensive set of workplace safety rules designed to address the COVID-19 pandemic.  (More information about the rules is available here, here and here). These temporary rules remain in effect until May 4, 2021. Late last … Continue Reading

Comment Period For Round Two of Proposed Paid Family and Medical Leave Rules Closes Friday

The Oregon Employment Department (“OED”) has posted its second set of proposed administrative rules implementing the Oregon Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (“PFMLA”). A link to the proposed rules is here and our blog about the first set of proposed rules is here.  The second set of proposed rules covers such critical topics as how to determine … Continue Reading

Department of Labor Publishes Final Rule Regarding Tip Pools and Tip Credits

After a lengthy and contentious rulemaking process, the Department of Labor (“DOL”) published its final rule revising its tipped-employee regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) last week. The new rules take effect 60 days from their publication in the Federal Register, which will occur shortly.  Here is a summary of the new rules’ … Continue Reading

Oregon Employment Department Posts First Draft of Proposed Paid Family Medical Leave Rules

As we’ve blogged about previously here, here, and here, in 2019, the Oregon legislature passed a paid family and medical leave (“PFML”) law which provides Oregon employees with up to 12 weeks of paid leave for a covered purpose through a payroll tax; Oregon employers with at least 25 employees are covered by the new … Continue Reading

Oregon OSHA Issues Sample Materials for Required Employee Training and Releases Delayed Enforcement Memorandum

Oregon OSHA has just released a series of materials, including sample training materials, to help employers comply with OR-OSHA’s temporary workplace safety rules related to COVID-19.  We previously discussed the OR-OSHA rules here and here.  The new materials are summarized below. Sample Training Materials Employers must provide employees with COVID-19 information and training by December … Continue Reading

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
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