Paying Cannabis Workers Equally Under the Oregon Equal Pay Act: Part 3
This series of posts has been exploring Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) proposed rules implementing Oregon Equal Pay Act and how it will affect cannabis businesses. Last week, I discussed what “work of a comparable character” means. The week before that, I explored what compensation is. This week, I’ll dive into the systems employers can implement to pay employees doing work of a comparable character different compensation.
The Oregon Equal Pay Act prohibits employers from paying employees performing work of a comparable character different compensation unless the entire compensation differential is based on a bona fide factor related to the position in question. The statute and rules only allow employers to consider certain “bona fide factors.” Employers may pay employees differential wages for work of a comparable character if it’s based on: 1) a seniority system; a merit system; a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; 3) workplace location; 4) travel requirements; 5) education; 6) training; and 7) experience. Let’s unpack these a little bit.
A seniority system is defined as a system that recognizes and compensates employees based on length of service with the employer. A seniority system should be applied consistently. Meaning, If Budtender A is hired at $14 per hour and is raised to $16 per hour after two years of employment, Budtender B should receive the same raise after two years of employment.
A merit system provides for variations in pay based upon employee performance as measured through job-related criteria. BOLI has provided an example of “a written performance evaluation plan or policy that measures employee performance using a set numerical or other established rating scale.” An employer should use such performance evaluation to determine employee pay rates.
A system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production include piece rate work. So for example, you could pay joint-rollers a certain amount for each joint rolled. An employee who rolls more joint would be paid more.
Work place location can be a consideration for differential wages. When determining if workplace location should factor into employee’s wages, the employer should consider: cost of living; desirability of worksite location; access to worksite location; minimum wage zone; or wage and hour zones.
Employers can also consider necessary and regular travel. This does not include consideration of normal travel between home and work.
When considering education, training, and experience, employers should consider substantive knowledge acquired through coursework, experience in the job field or trainings attended.
The rules require employers show a “devised coherent, consistent, verifiable and reasonable method.” This means more than an ad hoc decision to pay one budtender more than another. Instead, employers should have written policies describing how it pays its employees. This will require work—but in the long run could save you from BOLI penalties or a civil lawsuit from an employee (which is happening more and more in the industry as of late).
If you need assistance drafting compensation plans consult an attorney or a certified human resources specialist.