by Bethany Wright
Cascade Employers Association
Oregon has become somewhat of an innovator when it comes to passing laws for the working citizen. Our tiered minimum wage law was the first of its kind, and other states are taking notice.
One of Oregon’s newest changes is the new limits on overtime in manufacturing establishments. Essentially, unless the business is exempt, or qualifies for a limited-duration hardship waiver, employees in manufacturing environments are only allowed to work up to 55 hours a week, with a maximum of 60 if they sign a voluntary waiver, which can be rescinded at any time.
These new rules have led to frustrations for employers, as it causes issues with scheduling and production if they don’t have employees who can work when needed. It has also caused frustrations for employees, many of whom are used to working 70 or more hours a week, as it means a drastic cut in pay.
With the shortage of usual working hours, more employees are starting to look for second jobs to cover the difference in wages they are accustomed to bringing home.
The point of these rules seems obvious from an outsider’s view: employee safety, of course. We want to limit the time these employees spend at work because their safety is paramount. When working in a manufacturing environment, there are a lot of inherent dangers and those dangers should be taken seriously. If we can prevent even one accident by limiting working hours, shouldn’t we?
It’s a good question, and one that I keep asking myself. More and more, I am not so sure that it is doing the job that was intended. If employees are seeking secondary positions to supplement their lost income, the whole reasoning behind employee safety is moot. Those same employees would still be working the same hours overall, and depending on the schedule for their second job, they may be working more hours than before.
What can a business do to protect themselves in these situations?
1. Set clear expectations that this job is the employee’s primary job.
2. Include a policy in your handbook that addresses secondary employment, and that it should not cause a conflict of interest. Encourage employees to inform their manager or HR if they have, or plan to take, a secondary job. This will give the company an opportunity to remind the employee of the expectations of their position with the company.
3. Focus on employee performance and productivity, rather than the fact that they have a second job. Make it clear that if their secondary job is beginning to affect their work, there will be consequences, up to and including termination of employment.
The truth is, you generally can’t prevent someone from working a second job. However, you can do your best to make sure employees are focused on their position within your company and that they understand their work performance must be consistent with expectations.