The power company PacifiCorp is reopening its Portland offices in the Lloyd District on Nov. 9, even as COVID-19 cases hit record numbers in Multnomah County.
That reopening comes with a new policy: The electric utility's employees can opt to work from home, in return for a 10% pay cut.
"The pay decrease is considered an equitable trade-off in exchange for the elimination of commute time, additional flexibility, transportation cost savings and even potential tax breaks," states a company document obtained by WW.
It comes at a time when other companies are offering incentives to lure workers back to the office, as The New York Times reported Oct. 30. Such companies include New York-based real estate company S.L. Green, which is offering parents free tutoring for their kids who attend online school.
PacifiCorp, by contrast, is using a cudgel.
The deadline for returning to work at PacifiCorp, which is owned by Warren Buffett, also comes as weekly numbers of new COVID-19 cases hit a record high in Oregon. But the state has placed no new restrictions on any company requiring workers return to the office.
"We know that for some employees, the flexibility and benefits of working from home outweigh a salary reduction," says PacifiCorp spokesman Drew Hanson, who added that the company is preparing to make its workplace safe. "The safety of our workforce and customers remains our top priority. As an essential service provider, PacifiCorp has worked carefully throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to follow directives from state and local government leaders and public health officials while managing our responsibility and obligation to continue providing safe and reliable electric service."
UPDATE: On Sept. 6, Gov. Kate Brown announced a two-week "pause" in social activity in Multnomah County. The same day, PacifiCorp told employees it would delay its policy to honor the governor's instructions. The utility still plans to open its offices, and will still cut by 10% the pay of employees who work from home.