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Oregon Issues Rules In Advance Of New Minimum Wage Law

This table shows the schedule for annual minimum wage rate increases in Oregon from July 1, 2016 through July 1, 2022. Oregon's current minimum wage is $9.25 per hour.
Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries
This table shows the schedule for annual minimum wage rate increases in Oregon from July 1, 2016 through July 1, 2022. Oregon's current minimum wage is $9.25 per hour.

Oregon employers have new guidance from the state on how much to pay their employees when the state's minimum wage goes up next month. The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries released rules Wednesday meant to clear up one of the questions surrounding the legislatively-approved minimum wage hike.

The state's minimum wage goes up July 1, but the amount of the increase depends on where you work. The wage goes up 25 cents per hour in rural counties and 50 cents per hour everywhere else. Next year, the state moves to a three-tiered system which gives workers in the Portland metro area a higher rate than the rest of the state.

But what about workers whose job sometimes takes them across the boundaries of the state's three-tiered minimum wage map? Employers are worried they'd have to keep meticulous track of how much time any given worker spent in any given place.

The new rules address that concern, to a point. If workers spend at least half their time in one spot, then that spot's wage applies. That's also true for delivery drivers who start and end their days at the same place, even if their routes take them into counties with different wages.

That clause is a relief for Oregon Association of Nurseries Executive Director Jeff Stone. The rule means his members "won't have to GPS-track delivery drivers" who start their day in a rural area but make deliveries to Portland and its suburbs.

Other than delivery drivers, workers who spend more than half of their time in a region with a different pay scale than the company's headquarters would have to be paid according to the prevailing wage in the region where they are working at the time. The rules specify that employers who don't wish to track their employees' hours can simply pay them at the rate of the highest minimum wage of any region they worked in during that pay period.

One labor group isn't pleased with all aspects of the new state rules, though.

"We believe the rules could be both stronger and more protective for working people," Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain said. "Under the new rules, an employee must work more than 50% of their time during a pay period in a different region before a different wage is required. A pay period can be an entire month, which means some workers could spend two weeks in a higher wage region without the higher wage being required."

Oregon lawmakers approved the minimum wage increase on a mostly party-line basis in February. Under the new law, the wage will climb each year until 2022, when it will reach $14.75 in the Portland metro area, $13.50 in mid-size counties, and $12.50 in the state's most rural counties.

After 2022, the wage will once again be pegged to the Consumer Price Index.

Copyright 2016 Northwest News Network

Chris Lehman
Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.