We write and share as much substantive information about Oregon employment law as possible through this website. We believe that sharing employment law information makes Oregon a better place for workers and small business owners.
Discrimination in employment is made unlawful by federal and state law. Discrimination protects members of protected classes (or characteristics), such as race, gender, disability, and religion, from adverse employment action. Adverse action that affects significant aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, and compensation, is unlawful if caused by discrimination based on membership in a protected class. In addition, a "hostile work environment" claim can be based on discrimination against members of most protected classes.
Retaliation claims arise when employees object to or speak out about what they in good faith believe to be violations of, for example, anti-discrimination, wage and hour, and workers compensation laws. Retaliation and whistleblowing laws both provide legal redress for retaliation based on "protected activity," with whistleblowing laws generally addressing safety and other matters of public importance, as defined by statute.
Oregon law affords workers a number of protections and remedies related to workplace safety and on-the-job injuries. Workers' compensation insurance provides primary coverage for most medical treatments, time loss, and disabilities resulting from on-the-job injuries. Oregon statutes also provide employees with reinstatement and job protection rights.
Whistleblowing refers to protected employee reports of and opposition to certain kinds of unlawful activities. Determining how and when to respond to actual or alleged illegal activity in a workplace is a highly fact-specific undertaking because state and federal law provide different rights, responsibilities, and regulations - often on an industry-by-industry basis. Oregon whistleblower statutes set forth rights, protections, and remedies to public and private employees to suffer discrimination or retaliation resulting from protected whistleblowing activities.
Torts arise from wrongful acts that cause harm and for which the law provides a remedy. Torts are common law claims based on historically rooted legal doctrines that have evolved over time in a body of appellate court opinions. Tort claims frequently involve issues pertaining to the employment relationship, both employee-employer issues as well as issues pertaining to holding corporations liable for the acts of their employees.
Oregon and federal law provide varying protections to employees who, due to actual or perceived impairment, are substantially limited in their ability to carry out major life activities (e.g., walking, standing, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, etc.). In addition to laws that prohibit disability-related discrimination and retaliation, covered employers are often required to proactively interact with employees and provide reasonable disability accommodations.
Restrictive covenants are contractual obligations that limit future conduct and activities. Interpretation of Oregon restrictive covenants implicates an overlapping analysis of contractual, statutory, and common law principles. The most common restrictive covenants in the employment law context include noncompetition agreements, nonsolicitation agreements, nondisclosure agreements, and confidentiality agreements.
Oregon wage and hour law consists of an overlapping set of state and federal statutes, regulations, and case law governing payment of employee wages and record keeping of work hours and wages. Common wage and hour issues in Oregon include accrual and payment of regular wages, overtime, minimum wage, commission wages, and deductions from pay. Due to the nature of how corporations utilize and pay for labor, wage and hour issues frequently affect multiple workers.
Oregon unemployment insurance is a public benefit administered by the state of Oregon. The majority of unemployment-related legal issues in Oregon arise in the context of administrative appeals to administrative law judges at the Office of Administrative Hearings and secondary written appeals to the Employment Appeals Board.
Sexual harassment law is of surprisingly recent origin. Sex discrimination was not generally unlawful until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. The U.S. Supreme Court first addressed sexual harassment in 1986. Sexual harassment is characterized by "unwelcome" activity of a sexual nature in the workplace. Such activity becomes unlawful when the work environment, terms, or conditions of employment are adversely affected as defined by law.
Employment contracts cover a wide range of workplace agreements. Employment contracts can be written, or implied. In some professions, such as the medical profession, nearly all employment is by written contract. Most minimum wage jobs do not have a written contract. But even absent a written contract, employment is inherently a contractual relationship, which can be based on oral representations and course of dealing. Restrictive covenants, confidentiality and severance agreements are all contracts.
Employment leave laws include the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) passed in 1993, and the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) passed in 1995. These laws generally provide for protected unpaid leave for serious medical conditions of the employee or certain immediate family members when certain conditions are met. The FMLA covers employers of 50 or more and OFLA employers of 25 or more employees. In 2015, Oregon also passed a Sick Leave Law that requires employers, depending upon size, to provide paid or unpaid sick leave. All of these statutes are accompanied by a complex set of implementing rules and regulations.
Independent contractors are workers who are not employees and therefore not entitled to most of the protections discussed in other topics on our website. Various government agencies, including BOLI, Employment Department, and Workers Compensation, use slightly different tests to determine whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee. Application of these tests is complicated and, as with all employment legal issues, highly fact intensive.