On March 8th, Governor Kate Brown declared a state of emergency in Oregon. Many of us are anxious and scared about how the virus will impact us and our communities. While it’s hard to know what will happen, especially as new information is released hourly, we do know that this virus is exposing many of the flaws and inequities in our system, from the need for universal health care coverage to a lack of paid time off for workers.
Most employers want to do the right thing when they employ someone. Being an equitable employer means educating yourself about best employment practices, your legal obligations, and preparing your workplace for moments of crisis. Whether you employ a budtender, extraction technician, farm labor, or some other position in the industry, you can always take measures to protect hemp and cannabis workers, a workforce often including those like agriculture workers that are excluded from basic labor protections. These measures often help us protect ourselves and our families too.
The Cannabis Workers Coalition’s Employers Network has prepared this toolkit of best practices for employers to protect the workers they employed. We welcome your thoughts and feedback on how to improve these recommendations. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recommendations for All Hemp and Cannabis Employers
Have a Conversation
Talk with your employees about Coronavirus and make necessary adjustments for this new reality. Together, set up new agreements to avoid any conflicts and impacts on their income. (Here are more tips for establishing open and respectful communication with workers.) We’ve also created a blog post for how to approach difficult but necessary conversations, including conversation starters that might help you take the first step.
Protect your employee’s health and your own health. If your employees are still coming into work:
- Provide gloves, disposable masks, soap and hand sanitizer and give the worker an assurance that their workplace will be consistently sanitized.
- If you or a member of your staff is sick, protect your workers’ health by not asking them to work if at all possible, or honoring their request not to work. If they do come to work, practice wearing a mask and recommended social distancing guidelines while working indoors (you can find some here), minimizing contact between the person who is sick and your employees.
- If you or members of your staff have COVID-19 symptoms, get yourself and others on your staff tested if that option exists. Notify your employees of a possible exposure risk and ask them not to come to work while the workplace is being sanitized. If your employee is sick, give them paid time off and help them find assistance while they are quarantining.
If you can, provide extended paid sick leave
If you don’t need your worker to come to work, or if the worker becomes sick, provide them with paid sick leave. In the midst of this crisis, Cannabis Workers Coalition recommends providing at least 10 days of paid time off, or more if you’re able, for your employee to visit the doctor or to stay home to care for themselves or their family members who are sick.
During stay-at-home orders, provide paid time off for your employees
While the cannabis industry may not be prohibited during shelter-in-place rules, these rules are aimed at minimizing contact and spread of the virus and should be taken very seriously. For those employers who can, we recommend offering paid time off to your employees, so that they can shelter-in-place and continue to pay their bills. We recognize that this is not possible for many employers in the industry, but the very least you can do is arm yourself with a toolkit of resources you can offer your employee.
Take action to support all Hemp and Cannabis Workers and our communities.
Become a Member of Cannabis Workers Coalition’s Employer Network
Join a national movement mobilizing people who hire nannies, house cleaners, and home care workers to bring respect and dignity to domestic workers and ensure affordability of care for our communities!
Take Action and Support Policies to Protect Your Worker
Support our policy campaigns and join in solidarity with communities of color, low-income people, seniors and people with disabilities who are particularly vulnerable at this time.
- Become a Member of CWC’s Employers Network and be a part of national movement to win respect and dignity to our cannabis and hemp workers.
- Follow Cannabis Workers Coalition on Instagram to stay up-to-date on changing policy and best practices for cannabis and hemp employers, ask questions, and meet other employers!
Legal Obligations under Oregon State Law
Cannabis Workers Coalition encourages paying workers “on the books” for many reasons. One of those reasons is that during a moment like this, certain benefits become available to workers that would not be available otherwise, like Oregon’s Family & Medical Leave Act, Unemployment Insurance, and Workers Compensation. If you need advice or help about paying on the books, please email email@example.com
State Mandated Sick Time
Oregon law gives all workers sick time. If your workplace has 10 or more workers (or 6 or more workers if you work in Portland), that time must be paid. If your workplace has fewer than 10 workers, your sick time may be unpaid—but you can’t fire or punish employees for taking it. Employees earn 1 hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours per year.
COVID-19 Temporary Paid Leave Program
The COVID-19 Temporary Paid Leave Program is available to employees who need to quarantine or isolate because of COVID-19 exposure or are experiencing symptoms and need a medical diagnosis, but do not qualify for COVID-19-related paid sick leave or are not currently receiving Unemployment Insurance. Have employees take the eligibility quiz to see if they’re qualified.
Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA)
If your employ 25+ people, then your workers could qualify for protected leave under the Oregon Family Leave Act. Right now family leave is protected, but often unpaid unless you have vacation, sick, or other paid leave available to use. Paid family leave is coming to Oregon in 2023.
Employees and have been on the job for at least 180 days are eligible for parental leave. For all other OFLA leave benefits, workers must have been employed for at least 180 days and also work at least an average of 25 hours a week during the 180 days before leave begins.
NOTE: Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle issued permanent rule updates in September 2020 to allow Oregonians to continue to take OFLA protected time off to care for children whose school or childcare provider has been closed by a public official for a public health emergency – using “sick child leave.”
Unemployment Insurance (UI)
Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
The paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA apply to certain public employers, and private employers with fewer than 500 employees. Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify for exemption from the requirement to provide leave due to school closings or child care unavailability if the leave requirements would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern.
All employees of covered employers are eligible for two weeks of paid sick time for specified reasons related to COVID-19. This could look like:
- Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay where the employee is unable to work because the employee is quarantined, and/or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis; or
- Two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay because the employee is unable to work because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine, or to care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19
Employees employed at your company for at least 30 days also qualify for up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay where an employee, is unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.
NOTE: These provisions are good through December 31, 2020. You can find more information on the Department of Labor website