Telecommunications/Cable Franchise Update

Christy K. Monson

From our Winter 2019 e-newsletter

A while back some of you may have received an email from the League of Oregon Cities explaining that the Federal Communications Commission was in the process of taking testimony about how cities and other local governments collect fees from cable and telecom companies for the use municipal right of way (ROW). Specifically, the LOC (along with many government advocates around the nation) is concerned that the FCC may try to undo federal law protection of a municipality’s right to charge reasonable ROW fees. In filings before the FCC, some cable and telecom companies have alleged that cities throughout the nation, including those in Oregon, were being unfair or obstructionist in the way they granted permission to use the ROW.

To provide a fair response to these corporate allegations and to protect all cities’ rights to manage ROWs, the City of Independence asked us to file responsive comments at the FCC, which we did. In doing so, we worked closely with the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors. Our comments focused on five primary arguments:

  • Small cities are business-friendly and are dedicated to providing ready-access to the ROW on a non-discriminatory basis. It’s untrue that rural or small cities somehow slow down or serve as a barrier to expansion of the internet. Fast internet, reliable cable, VOIP, and video-streaming are crucial lifelines for small or rural cities. No one understands this better than a small city.
  • Cities cannot be responsible stewards of our public resources and grant private companies unregulated, free access to the ROW. Reasonable, fair municipal regulations require companies to follow a simple application process and pay fair ROW fees, which the federal law says may be based on the types of services they provide.
  • Cities are dedicated to treating all ROW users fairly and non-discriminatorily. This is true whether a company is providing only cable or whether a company is providing cable, internet, and/or VOIP. All we ask is that these companies follow our ROW rules and pay a fair fee for such use.
  • If municipalities showed favoritism and allowed those cable companies who also provide internet and VOIP to pay less than other providers, it would create an uneven playing field. This lack of competition would likely artificially increase cable and internet services in rural America.
  • The FCC must honor municipal franchise agreements which have been negotiated in good faith. The FCC should not take any act which retroactively amends or penalizes municipalities for responsibly managing their ROW in compliance with existing law and for the good of our communities.


How Should We Be Paying DPSST Trainees?

Mark Wolf

From our Winter 2019 e-newsletter

Late last year the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) issued a report detailing violations of wage and hour laws by the Ashland Police Department regarding trainees at the DPSST Academy. In November of last year, BOLI sent a letter to all law enforcement agencies alerting them of these violations as BOLI’s findings were likely to affect all police agencies in the state that send trainees to DPSST.

This article outlines BOLI’s findings and what they mean to your Police (and Fire) Departments. BOLI focused solely on law enforcement agencies, but its order also affects Fire Departments or Districts that send trainees to DPSST.

The DPSST police academy is a 16-week course. Generally, trainees are in classes from 8:00 am to 5:00 p.m. with an hour lunch and ten-minute breaks. In addition to the class time, trainees are typically required to (1) attend the Colors ceremony; (2) complete writing assignments; and (3) complete a community policing project. Often these extra assignments take place outside of the normal 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. class time. Traditionally, trainees only reported 40 hours per week on their timecards.

Based on this information BOLI concluded the following:

  • Time spent on projects and activities outside of the normal 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. class time is “time worked” and should be paid.BOLI based this finding on various federal and state laws. 29 CFR Section 785.11 states that “work not requested by suffered or permitted is work time” and must be paid. ORS 653.010(11) defines “work time” to be “both time worked and time of authorized attendance.” Finally, OAR 839-020-0004(19) defines “hour worked” to be “all time the employee is suffered or permitted to work.” Trainees typically work more than 40 hours in a work week and BOLI “strongly recommends” that trainees be paid for all time worked while at the academy. Although BOLI only specifically analyzed law enforcement agencies, these rules apply equally to police and fire agencies.
  • Overtime pay may not be required unless your CBA mandates it.Generally, employees are entitled to the overtime rate of time-and-one-half for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week. However, ORS 653.269(3) creates an exception for employees engaged in “law enforcement activities,” which includes time spent attending basic training. OAR 839-020-0250. However, as BOLI correctly pointed out, you must review your Collective Bargaining Agreement, as that agreement may require overtime be paid at lower thresholds than required by state law. Again, this statute and administrative rule also apply to those employed in “fire protection activities.”
  • Employers should require all trainees to maintain accurate records of actual hours worked.ORS 653.045 requires employers to maintain records showing “actual hours worked” each week or pay period and OAR 839-020-0080(1) requires employers to maintain records showing the “hours worked each workday and total hours worked each workweek.” Thus, it is important for all trainees, whether police or fire, to accurately record all time worked while at the academy.

What this means to your Police and Fire Departments:

  • Require that employees accurately record their time. To help facilitate this, employers should review the academy daily schedules (see link below) and have a policy, rule, or practice which outlines what hours are “work time” and what hours are not.
  • Pay your trainees for all time worked.
  • Check your CBA and personnel policies. BOLI did not order that overtime must be paid for all hours over 40 in a workweek, but your CBA or personnel policies might have different overtime requirements or obligations.
  • If you rely on the FLSA 7(k) exemption to avoid paying overtime after 40 hours, call us to discuss if this exemption should be used while at DPSST.
  • If you offer conditional offers of employment rather than hiring trainees, call us so we can discuss the pros and cons of this approach.

DPSST Class Schedules:

Holy BOLI! The Impact of Final BOLI Rules on Employer Equal Pay Analyses

Dan Lawler

From our Winter 2019 e-newsletter

In November of 2018, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) issued administrative rules to explain your duties as an employer under the Equal Pay Law, which, among other things, offers some protections from liability for employers who conduct an “equal pay analysis.” This means that you could protect your city or district from liability for damages if you carefully evaluate your employees’ compensation and begin the process to correct any compensation differences that are due solely to differences in gender, race, national origin, or other protected classes.

How do I determine if our compensation violates the new law?

Under the Equal Pay Law, employees who perform “work of comparable character” must be paid the same unless “bona fide factors” justify a difference in pay. Although the law defines the term “work of comparable character” as “work that requires substantially similar knowledge, skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions in the performance of work, regardless of job description or title,” many employers sought further guidance from BOLI regarding this definition. As a result, BOLI issued OAR 839-008-0010 to provide employers with examples of what constitutes skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions. For example, an employee’s precision and creativity can factor into whether she has a particular “skill,” while a difference in two employees’ working hours and physical surroundings can factor into the employees’ “working conditions.” The new rule’s examples of knowledge, skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions include:

  •  Knowledge:

o Certifications, licenses, certificates, education, experience, or training.

  •  Skill:

o Ability, agility, coordination, creativity, efficiency, experience, or precision.

  •  Effort:

o Amount of physical or mental exertion needed, amount of sustained activity, or complexity of job tasks performed.

  •  Responsibility:

o Accountability, amount of decision-making discretion, degree of significance of job tasks, amount of employee autonomy, extent of employer supervision over employee, or the extent that employee’s work exposes employer to risk or liability.

  • Working conditions:

o Work environment, hours worked, time of day of work, physical surroundings, or potential hazards.


The above list is not-exhaustive; you may use other reasonable and non-discriminatory considerations as well. When doing an analysis, you should always discuss and document your decision-making process and carefully cite these types of “work of comparable character” considerations to help avoid unlawful pay discrimination.

What do I do if I discover pay differences?

The Equal Pay Law requires employers to pay employees who perform work of comparable character the same amount, unless “bona fide factors” justify a difference in pay. The law identifies “bona fide factors” as factors which are based on:

  • A seniority system;
  • A merit system;
  • A system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, including piece-rate work;
  • Workplace locations;
  •  Necessary and regular travel;
  •  Education;
  •  Training;
  •  Experience;
  •  Any combination of the factors described above.

Although the law lists bona fide factors, it does not provide examples of or describe the factors. To address this, BOLI issued OAR 839-008-0015, which provides examples of the bona fide factors and explains the factors in greater depth. For example, the rules now identify an employee’s performance rating scale as an example of a merit-based system and specifically lists the completion of a certificate or degree program as an example of education considerations that would allow a pay differential. The rule also recognizes cost of living, desirability of worksite location, and minimum wage zones as examples of workplace location considerations that might justify a pay differential, as well as on-the-job trainings and formal training programs. Thus, if you have employees who perform work of comparable character, but receive different pay, you must show in your equal pay analysis that there are good and justifiable reasons for the pay difference. To do this, you must use the above-listed “bona fide factors” and document your reasoning.

Where can I get assistance to do an Equal Pay Analysis?

Equal Pay Analysis can get complicated very quickly. If you believe you would benefit from expert assistance, there are consultants who specialize in such work. Our firm has not used any of these consultants and cannot vouch for their competency, however, we’ve learned that the Local Government Personnel Institute and HR Answers are both offering such services.

If you have any further questions about the new Equal Pay Law or other employment matters,
please feel free to call us.

HB 2016 Post Janus, MORE OR LESS?

Diana Moffat

From our Summer 2019 e-newsletter

On June 20, the Governor signed into law HB 2016.

The Freedom Foundation, a staunch support group for cases like Janus and limits on public employer union rights and privileges, called HB 2016 the “Unions’ Latest Love Note to Themselves.” And a love note, it is! The Freedom Foundation claims that “Post-Janus membership losses, not surprisingly, have been massive for Oregon public-sector unions. SEIU 503, for example, has seen 26 percent of its members defect, while OSEA has lost 31 percent.” I cannot confirm, nor deny those claims. But I can tell you that public sector unions are fighting hard to keep employees from being able to opt-out of union membership.

Let’s see what the legislature agreed to, and what is NOT (despite union opinion) contained in this new legislation.

Employee time to conduct union business:

The law requires public employers to:

“grant public employees who are designated representatives reasonable time to engage in the following activities during the public employee’s regularly scheduled work hours without loss of compensation, seniority, leave accrual or any other benefits:

(a) Investigate and process grievances and other workplace-related complaints on behalf of the exclusive representative;

(b) Attend investigatory meetings and due process hearings involving represented employees;

(c) Participate in or prepare for proceedings under ORS 243.650 to 243.782, or that arise from a dispute involving a collective bargaining agreement, including arbitration proceedings, administrative hearings and proceedings before the Employment Relations Board;

(d) Act as a representative of the exclusive representative for employees within the bargaining unit for purposes of collective bargaining;

(e) Attend labor-management meetings held by a committee composed of employers, employees and representatives of the labor organization to discuss employment relations matters;

(f) Provide information regarding a collective bargaining agreement to newly hired employees at employee orientations or at any other meetings that may be arranged for new employees;

(g) Testify in a legal proceeding in which the public employee has been subpoenaed as a witness; and

(h) Perform any other duties agreed upon by a public employer and an exclusive representative in a collective bargaining agreement or any other agreement.”

Well that is certainly a mouthful. What does it mean? It means that your employees, who are union representatives, WILL be given paid time to do union business. That business will include grievance work – all the way from investigation to the hearing; attend and likely to prepare for collective bargaining of your CBA; and, attend new employee orientation.

But, and this a big but, the statute does say that it is “reasonable” time. That term is not defined. The employer should be able to take into consideration things such as operational needs, etc.

Release Time:

The new legislation also allows for what is called “release time.” Release time is defined as: “the period of time when a public employee who is a designated representative takes a leave of absence from the employee’s

regular public employment to conduct labor organization business.” It provides that:

“a public employer and an exclusive representative may negotiate and enter into written agreements whereby:

(a) The public employer shall provide a reasonable term of release time for public employees to serve as designated representatives of the exclusive representative or an affiliated labor organization.

(b) The public employer and the exclusive representative may agree to…”

The statute then goes on to talk about the ins and outs of having an employee away from the work site while on release time, to serve union business.

Despite this part of the statute seeming to be negotiable, it does provide that any current CBA can now be reopened to negotiate this type of release time.

I have a handful of CBAs with this type of provision. In essence, the employee ceases to do their job and now just does union work, whether on site or away at some union training. It can be difficult to temporarily fill their position, and to coordinate the repayment to the employer, required by the union, for wages and benefits.

Union access to employees: The law now provides that a public employer shall provide the union with “reasonable” access to employees within the bargaining unit. This will include the right to meet with new employees, while on paid leave time, “within 30 calendar days from the date of hire for a period of at least 30 minutes but not more than 120 minutes, during new employee orientation or, if the public employer does not conduct new employee orientations, at individual or group meetings.” In addition, for current employees, the union must be given “reasonable access” to those employees to include: “the right to meet with employees during the employees’ regular work hours at the employees’ regular work location to investigate and discuss grievances, workplace-related complaints and other matters relating to employment relations”; and “the right to conduct meetings at the employees’ regular work location before or after the employees’ regular work hours, during meal periods and during any other break periods.”

Union Meetings:
Public employers must now permit the unions to “use the public employer’s facilities or property, whether owned or leased by the employer, for purposes of conducting meetings with the represented employees in the bargaining unit . . . at a time and place set by the exclusive representative, provided that the meetings do not interfere with the employer’s operations.”

Information disclosure:
The public employer “shall” provide to the union, “in an editable digital file format” the following information for each employee in an appropriate bargaining unit: “(A) The employee’s name and date of hire; (B) Contact information including: (i) Cellular, home and work telephone numbers; (ii) Any means of electronic communication, including work and personal electronic mail addresses; and (iii) Home address or personal mailing address; and (C) Employment information, including the employee’s job title, salary and work site location.” This information must be provided within “10 calendar days from the date of hire for newly hired employees” and “every 120 calendar days for employees in the bargaining unit who are not newly hired employees.”

Use of employer email:
The union representative “shall have the right to use the electronic mail systems or other similar communication systems of a public employer to communicate with the employees in the bargaining unit regarding: (a) Collective bargaining, including the administration of collective bargaining agreements; (b) The investigation of grievances or other disputes relating to employment relations; and (c) Matters involving the governance or business of the labor organization.”

Union Dues Deductions:
And now we get to Janus!

The new law provides that your employee “may enter into an agreement with a labor organization” to provide authorization for a public employer to make a deduction to pay dues, fees and any other assessments. It also provides that the public employer “shall deduct the dues, fees and any other deduction authorized by a public employee under this section and remit payment to the designated organization or entity.” The statute also provides that a “public employee’s authorization for a public employer to make a deduction under [this law] shall remain in effect until the public employee revokes the authorization in the manner provided by the terms of the agreement. If the terms of the agreement do not specify the manner in which a public employee may revoke the authorized deduction, a public employee may revoke authorization for the deduction by delivering an original signed, written statement of revocation to the headquarters of the labor organization.”

The unions have a deductions form which only allows employees to “opt-out” during a very small window of time – usually for about a 30-day period, once a year. If the employee signs the union’s authorization form with that limiting opt-out language, they will be stuck to those terms. Such forced union membership is not within the scope and vision of the Janus ruling. Already we have lawsuits being filed in Oregon, and elsewhere, regarding these union tactics. “Three Oregon school employees sued their union in federal court Tuesday, arguing it’s unfair that the union only lets members drop out and stop paying dues during the month of September.”


Alteration of mandatory bargaining?
Under the Public Employees Collective Bargaining Act (PECBA), “employment relations” are a mandatory subject of bargaining for public employers with their unions. This new law, however, changes the definition of “employment relations”: “Employment relations” includes, but is not limited to, matters concerning direct or indirect monetary benefits, hours, vacations, sick leave, labor organization access to and communication with represented employees, grievance procedures and other conditions of employment.” I am not sure that this really changes anything, as we have always bargained about such topics. But this new law definitely erases any doubt!

And, just to further erase any doubts, the new law adds that it is an Unfair Labor Practice for a public employer to “Attempt to influence an employee to resign from or decline to obtain membership in a labor organization” or to “Encourage an employee to revoke an authorization for . . . deductions.”

If you have any questions or concerns as to how to proceed, feel free to give one of us a call or send an email.