Lawsuit filed to enforce Oregon janitor protections

As of January 1st, 2018, all janitorial employers in the State of Oregon were required to obtain a license to provide janitorial services. Oregon janitors in SEIU 49, the janitors union, filed a lawsuit last week against Expresso Building Services for failure to obtain a license as a janitorial employer. Our understanding is that Expresso continued to operate as an unlicensed janitorial contractor in Oregon for nearly 18 months, only applying after receiving an inquiry from state investigators who were following up on an anonymous complaint. Janitorial service clients may closely watch the suit, as Oregon law also requires anyone who receives janitorial services to inspect and retain a copy of the license of their janitorial provider.

The license requirement ensured that employers complied with new rules to protect front-line janitors, including by providing training to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault on the job. Many employers immediately complied, and the Bureau of Labor and Industries provided a 6-month grace period for registration, which ended in July 2018. We believe Expresso Building Services waited until May of 2019 – nearly 18 months after they were required to obtain a license – to apply. The suit further alleges that Expresso did not live up to other requirements stated in the law, including by providing clear statements to employees on their agreed-upon wages and working conditions.

In the coming months, Expresso workers are organizing to document their wages, hours, and benefits to ensure that their rights were not ignored while Expresso operated in violation of the law. If workers document violations of the law during this period, Expresso’s clients may be jointly and severally liable for the damages.  Clients of janitorial services are choosing to avoid unnecessary risks associated with irresponsible contractors and are instead choosing verified “Responsible Contractors.” Responsible Contractors are licensed with the State of Oregon, confirmed to meet area standards for wages, benefits, and working conditions, as well as using a tried and true dispute resolution system.