Oregon governor signs paid sick leave, retirement legislation

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 13, 2015 11:57 PM

By Courtney Sherwood

PORTLAND (Reuters) - Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed legislation on Monday mandating paid sick leave for nearly all workers and establishing a first-of-its kind state-run retirement program for private sector employees.

Brown said the four bills, dubbed the "Fair Shot" agenda, will help working, low-income families by ensuring a living wage, retirement security and protection against racial profiling by police.

"Our work is not done. There are still people with full-time jobs who are unable to make ends meet," Brown said in a statement. "We must carry on the fight to ensure all Oregonians have the opportunity to earn a living wage."

The measures, passed by the state's majority-Democrat legislature, were backed by a coalition of unions, social service groups, health care non-profits and minority-advocacy groups.

With the passage of the bills, Oregon became the first state in the nation to automatically enroll residents in a defined-contribution plan if they are hired by an employer that does not already offer retirement benefits, according to the task force that designed the measure.

Workers will have the right to opt out of the plan.

The package of bills also made Oregon the fourth state to require all businesses, with limited exceptions, to provide paid sick leave to their workers, after Connecticut, California and Massachusetts.

The law applies to all private-sector employers, regardless of their primary place of business, and allows workers to accrue up to 40 hours of sick leave annually.

Republicans decried the new bills, saying the measures will hurt small business owners and do nothing to create jobs.

In a statement, Republicans said the new sick-leave mandate will cost businesses $914 million, while the new retirement program for private-sector workers created an "expensive government mandate on Oregonians while doing nothing to increase incomes across the state".

The two other "Fair Shot" laws signed by Brown on Monday prohibit employers from asking job candidates about criminal records before the interview stage and outlaws racial, ethnic and religious profiling by police.

(Editing by Victoria Cavaliere and Miral Fahmy)