Category Archives: COVID – 19 Updates

OR-OSHA’s New COVID-19 Standard – Feedback Needed!

OR OSHAs New COVID 19 Standard

The COVID-19 pandemic and associated closures have devastated businesses across Oregon. And now, OR-OSHA is moving forward with a new COVID-19 Standard that is intended to protect employees during the pandemic. Unfortunately, as drafted these rules will actually harm Oregon businesses and create a significant cost burden! OR-OSHA has committed to finalizing the rules by September 21st and needs to hear from impacted employers like, Tigard Chamber of Commerce TODAY before these rules are finalized.
 
A full summary of the draft rules can be found HERE. Key issues include:

  • New sanitization requirements that mandate the cleaning of all high-touch surfaces and shared equipment each time before use by another employee or customer. It’s totally unreasonable to demand that a workplace sanitize every door handle and restroom stall between each individual use!
     
  • A 3-foot social distancing requirement for all employer-provided transportation.
     
  • A new 80+ hour paid leave mandate requiring ALL EMPLOYERS to provide paid leave (and benefits) whenever an employee is exposed to the COVID-19 virus, regardless of whether the exposure occurred at work or at a party or in their private residence. Note that this will be enforceable by BOLI, OR-OSHA and through a Private Right of Action against the employer!

Enough is enough! In June 2020, the Oregon legislature actually declined to move forward with this flawed concept, removing it from the omnibus COVID-19 policy package during the First Special Session. Now OR-OSHA is advancing this new mandate DESPITE clear legislative intent. The agency needs to hear from impacted stakeholders today before they finalize the temporary COVID-19 Standard.

You can make your voice heard, through the easy to use tool Voter Voice at this link.  There is draft letter already crafted which you can use and simply fill in your contact info so it goes to your legislative representatives as well as OR-OSHA.

Take a few minutes and help your business and other businesses!  Feel free to also share this email broadly.

See the Tigard Chamber’s letter to OR-OSHA and legislative reps here.

Letter to OR-OSHA and Legislature on Draft OR-OSHA COVID 19 Workplace Rules

tigard chamber logo blue

September 3, 2020

Dear Administrator Michael Wood, Senators Burdick & Thatcher  and Representatives Doherty and Neron,

Thank you for the opportunity to provide feedback on OR-OSHA’s Draft COVID-19 Standard.

The Tigard Chamber of Commerce represents close to 300 member businesses providing over 15,000 jobs who are committed to growing business opportunities and providing living-wage jobs for families in our community.  We are writing today to express our concerns about OR-OSHA’s Draft COVID-19 Standard.

Oregon employers have been saddled with an incredible burden. Many businesses faced closures in 2020 or saw operations significantly curtailed in order to slow the spread of the virus. Employers also have been tasked with complying with Governor’s Orders and ever-evolving guidelines for businesses from the Oregon Health Authority. We’ve worked hard to comply because we wanted to protect our customers and employees, but each of these regulations comes at a cost, and some businesses weren’t able to weather the economic storm created by this.

Now, OR-OSHA is moving forward with costly new workplace standards and a new paid leave mandate that will apply to all public and private employers. We are all trying to do our best, but some of the proposals put forward by OR-OSHA are concerning. Please make the following changes to your temporary COVID-19 Standard before you finalize to make it workable.

First, OR-OSHA must remove the requirement that employers sanitize all high-touch surfaces and shared equipment between every use. That mandate alone will require all employers to hire or repurpose employees to just follow other employees around and clean surfaces after one touch. It also will require significant investment in sanitation supplies above and beyond what we have currently purchased. OR-OSHA must be reasonable; this is clearly not.

Second, I’m concerned that OR-OSHA is creating standards that conflict with existing public health guidelines. Local businesses already have spent a lot of money to create a safe work space for their employees and customers. OR-OSHA’s mask requirements should align with the Governor’s requirements and exceptions for facial coverings. Please also simplify language related to social distancing; there should be one clear standard. It’ll be tough for small businesses to navigate these rules; they are regulatory relief right now, not additional administrative hurdles.

Third, OR-OSHA must eliminate the new paid leave mandate that is called “Medical Removal.” The agency doesn’t have the authority to expand an existing Fed-OSHA program that is used in the rare instances of workplace chemical exposure in order to create a new 2-week paid leave benefit for all employees during COVID-19. And employees who were exposed to COVID-19 outside of work will receive this benefit (paid for by employers), regardless of whether they complied with the Governor’s Orders! This is unfair to employers who are trying to do the right thing and will harm local businesses who are already struggling. It also ignores significant federal and state benefits that have been authorized to support employees who need to quarantine. Businesses are closing their doors every day; please don’t make Oregon an impossible place for local businesses to operate.

Finally, we ask the agency to give businesses a minimum of 90-days before enforcement kicks in. Employers will face OR-OSHA penalties immediately and could face BOLI penalties and costly lawsuits if OR-OSHA pursues the ill-advised paid leave mandate. Please give employers time to figure out how to interpret and comply with these rules before starting enforcement.

We are all doing our best. Please do not add a costly burden to employers at a time when small businesses can least afford it.

Thank you for listening to our concerns.

Sincerely,

Debi Mollahan

CEO, Tigard Chamber

 

Request for Temporary & Targeted COVID-19 Liability Relief

tigard chamber logo blue

June 18, 2020

Dear Governor Brown, Senators Burdick and Thatcher, and Representatives Doherty and Neron,

The Tigard Chamber of Commerce represents over 300 businesses who are committed to growing business opportunities and providing over 16,000 living-wage jobs for families in our community.  We are writing today to express our concerns about potential for lawsuits should an employee or customer contract COVID-19.

Governor Brown’s executive orders have flattened the COVID-19 curve, but the changing regulatory environment also has created immense exposure and uncertainty for our business.

We are worried that even though businesses take steps to follow public health guidelines, they are still at risk of a lawsuit from a customer or employee saying that they didn’t do enough to protect them from exposure.  One of these lawsuits would cripple a local business. It’s already tough to keep their doors open in these challenging economic times. Please don’t leave them exposed to unnecessary legal risk.

Businesses need temporary and targeted COVID-19 liability relief to prevent further financial jeopardy as Oregon starts to reopen.  Temporary COVID-19 liability protections are not a license for a business to intentionally ignore safety precautions. However, targeted liability protection will ensure that employers who are following best practices and state-issued public health guidelines don’t suffer further economic harm.

Our families and business have been through a lot since the coronavirus took hold. We’re all trying our best and learning as we go – both about this virus and this new world.  We ask you to pass temporary and targeted liability protections to shield local businesses from legal risk when they are following state public health guidelines to protect employees and customers from the novel coronavirus.

Thank you for your leadership during these unprecedented times.

Sincerely,

Debi Mollahan

CEO, Tigard Chamber