by Dennis Westlind
Stoel Rives LLP, Attorneys at Law
Last week a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit aimed at blocking SB 519, the Oregon law the prohibits employers from requiring employees to attend meeting about, among other things, labor unions. Click here to read the District of Oregon’s opinion in Associated Oregon Industries v. Avakian.
SB 519, passed by the Oregon legislature in 2009, prohibits employers from disciplining or threatening to discipline employees who refuse to attend mandatory or “captive audience” meetings on religious or political matters, including the employer’s views on labor unions. SB 519 also requires employers to post a notice informing employees of their rights under the law, which you can download here.
Associated Oregon Industries brought a federal lawsuit on behalf of Oregon employers, arguing that the law is preempted by the National Labor Relations Act and violates employers’ First Amendment free speech rights. The court did not reach the merits of that challenge; instead, the court held that the case was not ripe for review, and indicated it could not be challenged “until an employer holds a mandatory meeting, and then creates an employee’s cause of action by disciplining an employee who refuses to attend.”
In our humble opinion (not to be taken as legal advice!), the portion of SB 519 that applies to union meeting will someday be successfully challenged on the basis that it is preempted by federal labor law. This latest ruling, however, seems to indicate a court will be reluctant to rule on the bill until it is presented with a case involving employee discipline, and that may take an employer with enough interest in such meetings to be willing to run the risk and costs of litigation.