Employers Need Flexibility to Serve Customers, Workers
Sometimes a business’ needs and a worker’s needs don’t match up. To use an example that’s become painfully familiar this winter, what if a shift manager can’t get to the coffee shop where he works because of icy roads? Does the manager or owner close the shop or get someone else to cover the shift? Most managers would explore various options, weighing the potential loss of business and the potential inconvenience to workers, before making a decision. But it is becoming increasingly difficult for Oregon employers to make those decisions because of restrictions placed on them by regulators and Legislators.
Oregon has experienced an unusually rapid increase in workplace mandates over the past two years. These include wage transparency rules, increases in the minimum wage, mandated paid sick leave, implementation of a low-carbon fuel standard, restrictions on how hiring information can be obtained and used from convicted felons, increases in the fees attorneys can charge for workers’ compensation cases, mandatory extension of health care benefits through family medical leave, responsibility for administering a new state retirement plan and, most recently, changes in the interpretation of overtime rules. Additionally, regulators have implemented or are considering adding more restrictive rules regarding air emissions, water management and scheduling.
Any one of these mandates requires investment of time and money by employers to effectively implement. Together, these regulations represent a challenge that puts Oregon companies at a disadvantage with less-regulated competitors in other states and strains profit margins.
It’s not that employers disagree with the intent of these rules. All businesses need stable, qualified workforces. One way to attract quality workers is to create a flexible workplace environment where workers feel valued and receive the compensation and benefits needed to support their families. Most employers try hard to do this. Recently developed software and mobile applications make it increasingly possible to meet workers’ need for flexible schedules, so long as employers have the ability to adapt to unexpected circumstances.
Employers need time to digest all the recent policy changes before local, state and federal governments consider new ones. As state government has shown when trying to implement some of its own policies, mistakes happen when employers are forced to make too many changes in too short a period of time. And if businesses lose the flexibility to meet the needs of customers and workers, they eventually will have fewer of each. That hurts everyone.