New Year, New Employment Laws – What Employers Need to Know Now


Employers may not believe it’s a “happy” new year when they learn about the new employment-related laws that went into effect January 1, 2012.

But a closer review of these laws demonstrates that employers don’t have too much to be concerned about. As will be discussed, at least one of the new laws actually benefits employers. More importantly, none of the new laws require Oregon employers to update their employee handbooks, although all employers should educate themselves about these new laws so that they can update any applicable practices and procedures.

Employee use of cell phones while driving. As of January 1, Oregon law no longer allows drivers to use handheld cell phones if the call is related to their jobs. With few exceptions relating to drivers of emergency vehicles, tow trucks and farm vehicles who receive work-related calls, all drivers must either pull over to take a call or use a hands-free device. Violations of this law are now considered primary offenses, which mean a police officer can stop the driver for no other reason than for use of a hand-held cell phone.

Arbitration Agreements – Required Notice (HB 3450/ORS 36.620) An employer must give 72 hours written notice of an arbitration agreement before a new employee’s start date, if acceptance of an arbitration agreement is a required condition of employment. (The old law required two weeks’ notice.)  Further, employers must include the following language in boldface type when giving the employee notice of the arbitration provision (and the employee must sign it):

I acknowledge that I have received and read or have had the opportunity to read this arbitration agreement. I understand that this arbitration agreement requires that disputes that involve the matters subject to the agreement be submitted to mediation or arbitration pursuant to the arbitration agreement rather than to a judge and jury in court.

The new notice requirements apply to arbitration agreements entered into on or after January 1, 2012.

Note: An Oregon federal court held that the old two-week notice provision required by Oregon law was preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act and was therefore unenforceable. See Bettencourt v. Brookdale Senior Living Communities, Inc., No. 09-CV-1200-BR, 2010 WL 274331 (D. Or. Jan. 14, 2010). I also succeeded with this argument in a state court proceeding. It seems likely that the new 72-hour-notice law could face similar scrutiny.

New OFLA Poster. The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries updated its “Oregon Family Leave Act” poster in January 2012. Employers with 25 or more employees in Oregon must post this poster (and/or the Spanish version, if applicable to the employer’s workforce). The English version is available for download from:

Benefits During Jury Duty (HB 2828 and HB 3034). Employers with ten or more employees are required to continue health, disability, life, or other insurance coverage for an employee during times when the employee serves or is scheduled to serve as a juror. The employee must provide notice to the employer of his or her election to have coverage continue during jury duty. The bill provides a limited process by which an employer may recover costs of the employee’s share of premiums.

Employers are also prohibited from requiring employees on jury duty to use vacation, sick or other annual leave for time spent in responding to jury summonses, or for time spent on jury duty. The employee must be allowed to take unpaid leave instead.

Wage Demand Notices (HB 2040)  An employee who makes a demand for wages post-termination is now required to include in that demand how much money he or she is owed or provide “sufficient” facts to allow the employer to determine the amount claimed. An employee who fails to do so may not be able to recover a full 30-day statutory penalty for the wage violation under ORS 652.150. Further, the employer has 12 days to respond to the letter (i.e., to “cure” the defect, if in fact there is one). If the matter is resolved, the statutory penalty may not exceed the amount of unpaid wages claimed.

Public Employers and Veterans (HB 3207)  Public employers are now required to interview each veteran who applies for a civil service position (or who applies for an eligibility list for a civil service position) when: (1) The veteran meets the minimum qualifications and special qualifications for the civil service position/eligibility list; and (2) The veteran submits information (“sufficient evidence”) indicating that the veteran has the transferable skills required and requested by the employer for the civil service position/eligibility list. “Transferable skill” means a skill that a veteran has obtained through military education or experience that substantially relates, directly or indirectly, to the civil service position for which the veteran is applying.

I will talk about these laws in more detail at Barran Liebman LLP’s next Bend employment law seminar, which will be held on February 21. For more information, and to register, go to:

Tamara E. Russell has represented employers in Oregon and beyond for the last 14 years in a variety of employment and labor law matters. Her practice at Barran Liebman LLP involves providing employer clients with day-to-day counseling and advice, and representing employers in administrative, labor and state and federal court proceedings. Copies of the legislation described in this article can be found at or by contacting the author at or 503-276-2182.


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Founded in 1994 by the late Pamela Hulse Andrews, Cascade Business News (CBN) became Central Oregon’s premier business publication. •

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