>Local companies weigh in on the impact of new workplace bills
Senators and representatives in the 74th Oregon Legislative Session are considering a number of workplace bills that will affect employers and employees.
   One of these is House Bill 2258. This would require employers who have made payroll errors, or have underpaid a worker, to pay the employee within a certain time frame after a notice is issued, according to Theresa Van Winkle of the House Committee on Business and Labor.
   The bill establishes that if the error or underpayment is less than 5 percent of the employee's gross pay due, it must be corrected no later than the next regularly scheduled pay date. If the error or underpayment is 5 percent or greater of an employee's gross pay due, it must be resolved with the worker within three days after the employer is given notice of the unpaid amount. This period excludes weekends and holidays.
   At local business Woodgrain Millwork, HR manager Rena Gibney said this particular bill would not change the way the company compensates its employees.
   "We already do that," she said. "We correct payroll errors immediately."
   At Ericksons Thriftway, manager John Amodeo said such a law would be only fair.
   "There is nothing unreasonable about that," he said. "I get a payroll report as soon as the paychecks come in so if there is an error, we can definitely look at it and take care of it right away."
   As HB 2258 works its way through the Oregon State Legislature, both Rep. George Gilman and Sen. Doug Whitsett expressed their support for its passage.
   "I think it's fine," said Gilman. "[HB] 2258 talks about if an employee was not paid the right amount, that the employee should be paid immediately and I agree with that."
   Gilman represents District 55, which includes Crook and Lake counties, as well as parts of Jackson, Deschutes and Klamath counties.
   Gilman also talked about the future of HB 2258.
   "It's passed out of committee, came out of committee with an unanimous 'do pass,'" Gilman said. He anticipated HB 2258 will be presented on the Oregon House of Representatives floor within the next week or so.
   "And I think it will pass," the representative said. "From my looking at it, I'm going to vote for it. It looks fine to me."
   Gilman also thought HB 2258 has a pretty good chance of being passed by the Senate and signed into law by Gov. Ted Kulongoski.
   Overtime and the workplace
   Another workplace bill and one that covers overtime is HB 2673. If passed, the bill would allow the commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries to adopt rules permitting overtime pay for work after eight hours in a day. Or it would permit overtime pay when an employer has adopted an alternative work week schedule that authorizes an employee to work 10 hours per day within a 40-hour work week, after 10 hours in one day.
   "HB 2673 simply codifies the rather common four, 10-hour days work week into Oregon law as a legal employment practice," Whitsett said. "It also provides for overtime payment at 1.5 times normal pay for work periods of more than 10 hours in a four (by) 10 (hour) work week and for any compensated hours in addition to 40 hours per week."
   Whitsett represents District 28, which includes Crook, Klamath and Lake counties, as well as parts of Jackson and Deschutes counties.
   Local business Woodgrain Millwork operates largely on an alternative work week.
   "Most employees work nine hours and four hours on Friday. I believe that would be viewed as an alternative work week," explained Gibney, human resources manager at Woodgrain. "As long as we could adopt an alternative work week, it really wouldn't affect us. We would try to keep the schedule we have now."
   Whitsett said alternative work weeks are often embraced by employees.
   "I support this common sense bill," Whitsett said. "A rather large Klamath County employer went to a four by 10-hour work week several years ago. Most of their employees profess to support the work schedule, which includes a three-day weekend each week. The schedule also reduces home to work commuting time and mileage by 20 percent."
   In general, Whitsett supports the bill but had heard of one problem with it.
   "The only negative that I have heard is that two working parents with school age children may experience some scheduling problems. However, that did not appear to be a major problem for the employees of the Klamath company," Sen. Whitsett said. "I expect no problem in passing this bill because the bill was introduced at the request of the Bureau of Labor and Industries and is co-sponsored by 18 representatives."
   For many businesses on a eight-hour shift schedule, overtime is a cost of business.
   "Anytime you are paying overtime it affects your business," said John Amodeo, manager of Ericksons Thriftway. "Especially in retail because things happen. People get sick and whatnot and you [have] to keep somebody over, then you have to pay overtime."
   Amodeo said he believes in paying overtime on anything over a 40-hour week.
   "You get your 40 hours in, then you work extra, you should get overtime I believe," he said. "I believe people getting paid by the hour, who work more than 40 hours per week, they should benefit from overtime."
   Amodeo said he has a few employees who work salary plus but most of his employees work an eight-hour shift.
   No problems with HB 2674
   Likewise, Whitsett was also supportive of HB 2258 and House Bill 2674.
   HB 2674 requires that when an employer deducts an amount from an employee's wages as required or authorized by law agreement, the employer shall pay the amount deducted to the appropriate recipient.
   "That seems fair," Amodeo said. "There is nothing unreasonable about that. I get a payroll report as soon as the paychecks come in so if there is an error, we can definitely look at it and take care of it right away."
   Whitsett agreed.
   "Both of these (Bureau of Labor and Industries) BOLI bills appear to be fair and reasonable to me," Whitsett said. "I really do not see how they would have negatively impacted the small businesses that I have owned. Payroll deductions should be paid for the reason that they were deducted and late wage payments are due as soon as they are late. I would expect both bills, as written, to pass both chambers and be signed into law."
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