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No paid time off for voting in Oregon.

Byline: ON THE JOB By Dan Grinfas For The Register-Guard

Question: We have an employee who insists that he has the right to two hours of paid time off to vote in the upcoming national election. Is there such a law?

Answer: Yes, but not here in Oregon.

More than half of the states do have laws that guarantee registered voters time off work to cast their votes. In many cases, these election codes allow for paid time off, typically two to three hours, when a particular work schedule does not allow the employee enough time to get to the polls before or after the shift.

It's possible your employee previously worked in Alaska, Washington, California or one of the other states that allow paid time off for employees who do not have sufficient nonwork time to vote.

As an Oregon employer, you can require your employee to cast his vote on his own time. That should not be a problem, since Oregon voters adopted a vote-by-mail system in 1998.

In November of 2000, Oregon became the first state to conduct a presidential election entirely by mail. Oregon will conduct the 2004 election in the same manner, so your employee should have ample time to review the voters' pamphlets and mail in his ballot before November 2.

Question: I was hired as a political canvasser and was asked to attend an unpaid training day prior to starting the work. This involved a half-day `observation period,' where I followed and watched a trained person knocking on doors, making a pitch and soliciting contributions. Then, for the remainder of the day, it was my turn to knock on doors and make the political pitch while being observed. After I successfully completed the observation day, the organization put me through two days of paid training - $50 each day for seven hours of training. Is this arrangement legal? Should I have been paid for the first day?

Answer: The `day rate' of $50 that you received on days two and three is legal, since it works out to $7.14 (more than the current minimum wage of $7.05) for each of the seven hours you worked those days. Since you are a nonexempt employee, the employer must keep records of your daily and weekly work hours and ensure that your compensation, in whatever form, amounts to at least the minimum wage.

Your employer evidently wants to treat your first full day of on-the-job training as though it were an extended job interview, but based on your description, the employer should count that time as hours worked and pay at least minimum wage for the hours you spent that day.

Employers certainly are not obligated to pay job applicants for time spent in job interviews, but on-the-job training during an employee orientation is a cost of doing business and must be treated as work time. Under both Oregon and federal wage laws, `employ' is defined as `to suffer or permit' an individual to work.

What you describe is distinguishable from a skills test conducted within a job interview, where the employer might ask you about your canvassing experience or might have you present a sample political pitch. Obviously, the employer need not pay you for attending the job interview, even if the employer hires you.

But in your example, the employer suffered or permitted you to work. You were both learning and performing the actual work in the real work environment (on citizens' doorsteps), for an extended time period (an entire workday). The employer should pay you for these activities, even if he refers to them as `working interview,' `observation period' or `job shadowing.'

There are certain cases in which an employer essentially operates a vocational school or training center. Such an employer may not be obligated to treat a training class as work time, where students are learning broad, transferable skills and are not guaranteed employment with the organization at the conclusion of the training course.

On The Job is written by attorney Dan Grinfas of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. Contact BOLI at (503) 731-4200, or BOLI, 800 N.E. Oregon St. No. 32, Portland, OR 97232.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Oct 24, 2004
Previous Article:Taking the bait.

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