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How do I avoid wage disputes?

Employers may be able to avoid costly disputes by simply putting a few processes into place.

Any legal issue could be costly for a business, especially a wage-and-hour dispute. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the Wage and Hour Division recovered more than $1.2 billion over the last five years for employees who were owed back wages. There are a few simple measures company owners and management may take in order to prevent these issues from arising.

Know the minimum wage

The minimum wage rate changes every year. According to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, the standard minimum wage for employees starting July 1, 2017, is $10.25 an hour. However, employers in the Portland area have an $11.25 an hour rate, and nonurban counties go by a different rate – $10 an hour. It is vital that every employer knows which rate applies.

Know the required break and meal schedule

These disputes sometimes arise when an employee feels he or she did not receive the required break time. In Oregon, there is a state law that mandates break times for nonexempt employees. Typically, an adult who works eight hours must receive a 30-minute meal break, which is unpaid, and two 10-minute rest breaks, which are paid.

An employer with 25 or more employees must also provide nursing mothers a break to express milk. However, if this creates an “undue hardship” on the company, these breaks could be denied.

Know the laws regarding minors

Minors who are at least 14 are legally able to obtain employment in Oregon. There are some laws specific to minors, such as the requirement to verify their age and limited hours for 14- and 15-year-olds, who may not work more than three hours on a school day nor work during school hours.

Additionally, minors receive at least 15 minutes for a rest period on a four-hour shift, and their 30-minute meal break must begin within five hours and one minute of the start of their shift. Minimum wage laws are the same for adults and minors.

Know the information to post

Employers in Oregon must post information regarding wage and hour laws where employees may regularly view them. Most places put these in break rooms. The required posters depend on if the business has fewer than 25 employees, 25 or more employees, or is an agricultural company.

Information on state and federal minimum wages, safety laws and protection for harassment, domestic violence and sexual assault victims is required. Larger employers must post information on the Family and Medical Leave Act, and agricultural businesses must have information about sanitation, seasonal worker protection, among other items.

Know the processes to put in place

Lastly, enacting a few processes ensures a company is running its payroll smoothly. Those processes include the following:

  • Ensuring workers are classified correctly, such as interns and contractors
  • Periodically auditing wage and hour information
  • Require pre-dispute arbitration

Employers should be proactive when it comes to payroll matters. Addressing concerns promptly and fairly keeps matters above board. People who have questions about these issues should speak with an employment law attorney in Oregon.