In February 2018, the Oregon Legislature attempted to push through House Bill 4154, which would have made a general contractor liable for unpaid wages, including benefit payments and contributions, of an employee of a subcontractor at any tier, after that employee files a wage claim and the Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries (“BOLI”) makes a determination that the claim is valid but cannot be enforced against the subcontractor. The only way that the general contractor would not be held liable for unpaid wages was if it had paid the subcontract in full prior to the BOLI determination.

HB 4154 passed in the House 31-26 on February 26, 2018, and it was referred to the Senate on February 27, 2018. The Senate met on March 3, 2018, and HB 4154 died on the Senate floor without a vote. Although the bill did not pass, a similar bill could reappear in the coming legislative sessions.

HB 4154 was presented as a solution to a “wage theft” problem in the construction industry, and it closely modeled a recently passed California bill, Assembly Bill 1701. AB 1701, sponsored by unions that represent carpenters and other building trades, allows construction workers who have not been paid for a job to seek their back wages and benefits, with interest, from the general contractor. The general contractor’s liability does not extend to penalties or liquidated damages. AB 1701 only impacts construction contracts that are entered into after January 1, 2018.