Oregon passed the Workplace Fairness Act (OWFA) in 2019 which aimed to forbid employers from requiring that employees enter into any legally binding agreements which would prevent the individual from disclosing conduct relating to harassment or discrimination under state law or which would prevent the individual from any reemployment by the organization. With the recent passage of Senate Bill 1586 (SB 1586), Oregon is expanding protections to those negatively affected by such agreements.
Effective January 1, 2023, the additional protections granted through the OWFA, are as follows:
- Coverage of the Act was amended to include agreements that were applicable to not only prospective and current employees, but also any agreements entered into with past employees.
- When an employer enters into an agreement with a past, present, or potential employee, “the terms of which release a claim brought against the employer by an employee alleging” harassing or discriminatory conduct, the employer would be prohibited from now also including:
- A provision preventing disclosure of the amount or fact of any settlement unless specifically requested by the employee.
- Employers are forbidden from settling an OWFA-related claim with an individual by having employees sign off on provisions that ensure confidentiality or other restrictions as a condition of the settlement.
- In any event an employer seeks to enter into an agreement with an individual, the employer is required to produce copies of polices regarding “prohibited discrimination or harassment,” to resolve any potential OWFA-related claims.
- Employees who are subjected to such matters have the ability to take civil action against their employer and may recover penalties upwards of $5,000 and the potential for other restitution including but not limited to emotional distress or lost wages.
Ultimately, these amendments to the Workplace Fairness Act continue to remain non-applicable for employment agreements regarding matters of non-disclosure or non-disparagement, so long as the conduct in questions is not related to prohibited actions under the OWFA.