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New minimum wage rules require tracking how long, where employees work

COURTESY PHOTO - Protesters with SEIU joined dozens of others who marched April 14 on the PSU campus to demand a higher minimum wage.Proposed rules for Oregon’s new three-tiered minimum wage law would require employers to pay employees based on where the employee actually works.

Starting in 2017, employers will have to track not only the hours their employees work but also the location, under the draft rules. Employees who work for more than four hours per week in another region would earn that region’s wage for those hours.

EO MEDIA GROUP“Let’s say they just did a brief meeting or a short job that took less than four hours, they would get the same pay. If they do more than four hours, say they do half of the week in one region and half of the week in another region, then they would have to pay two separate rates,” said Paloma Sparks, legislative director for the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.

The agency will hold a public hearing on the draft rules at 2 p.m. April 25, at the Portland State Office Building, Room 1B, 800 N.E. Oregon St. The agency also will accept public comment until May 22. The agency expects to finalize the rules by June.

Lower threshold?

The first-of-its-kind law takes effect July 1, bumping up the state’s minimum wage from $9.25 to $9.75 statewide. In 2017, wage increases will diverge according to region. By 2022, wages will reach $14.75 in the Portland area, $12.50 in most rural and coastal counties and $13.50 in the rest of the state.

That’s when the proposed rules could become complicated for some employers. For example, an employee who works in Salem for 35 hours and in Portland for five hours per week in 2017 would earn $10.25 per hour for the time in Salem and $11.25 per hour for the time in Portland.

The new law, passed in February, directed the labor bureau to make the rules relating to employer location. Determining how to pay employees who work in different locations is the main issue the agency is trying to resolve with the rules, Sparks said.

An advisory committee has helped to shape the rules. There is little agreement about how the regional wage should be determined, Sparks said.

“The worker advocates would like the threshold to be a lot lower, like one hour; employer advocates would like it to be where the employer is located. There is not a lot of meeting in the middle,” Sparks said.

Committee members are the NW Grocery Associations, Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association, Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregon Association of Nurseries, Association of Oregon Industries, Oregon Business Association, PCUN, AFL-CIO, Family Forward, SEIU, CAUSA and Oregon Center for Public Policy. Representatives from the offices of Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, and Rep. Paul Holvey, D-Eugene, serve on the committee.

Under the law, the minimum gradually climbs to $14.75 in 2022 in the Portland urban growth boundary, which includes parts of Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties. It will rise to $13.50 in Benton, Clatsop, Columbia, Deschutes, Hood River, Jackson, Josephine, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Polk, Tillamook, Wasco and Yamhill counties, and parts of Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties outside Portland’s urban growth boundary.

In rural areas, the wage increases to $12.50. Those areas include Malheur, Lake, Harney, Wheeler, Sherman, Gilliam, Wallowa, Grant, Jefferson, Baker, Union, Crook, Klamath, Douglas, Coos, Curry, Umatilla and Morrow counties.

By Jill Rehkopf Smith
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