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Oregon Law: Labor & Employment Issues

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Today in Oregon, the majority of non-management, non-union workers fall into the category of being “at will” employees, which is to say that their employment status is solely determined at the will of their employers. Lacking the protection of a contract or union agreement, an “at will” employee may be terminated or denied promotion or raises for almost any reason or for no reason at all. The key word there is almost, because all employees — “at-will” or otherwise — are protected by some important state and Federal laws.

A good attorney who specializes in employment-related issues can provide invaluable information and advice regarding the many complex and often-changing laws that may affect employees and employers alike.

Common employment-related legal issues:

  • Wrongful termination: employment is terminated for an illegal reason — Federal law prohibits firing people based on their gender, race, religion, ethnicity or disability. Oregon laws also prohibit discrimination based on age, marital status, sexual orientation, credit history and uniformed-service status. These laws apply to “at will” employees as well as those with contracts. Employers who violate antidiscrimination legislation are subject to civil liability.
  • Unfair employment-related conduct based on discrimination — The discrimination laws described above also apply to employment issues such as hiring and promotion practices.
  • Unfair labor practices — Federal and state laws protect several basic employees’ rights. For example, the Fair Labor Standards Act decrees how many hours employees can be required to work and how much they must be paid. Employers are required to comply with all legal mandates, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act, which protects employees’ right to take time off work to deal with illness, or to welcome a new baby into the home.
  • Unsafe or inappropriate workplace conditions — For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces national safety standards for employees in their workplaces. Various laws protect employees from privacy violations, sexual harassment and other maltreatment.
  • Retaliation or termination for “whistle-blowing” activities or for employment-related activities such as meeting with union representatives on personal time.
  • Breach of contract — Employers and employees are both legally bound by obligations stated in a contract. An employment contract may define job responsibilities, duration of employment, wage or payment terms and work hours. A contract should also define the grounds for termination. When employers violate contract provisions, employees are often able to recover damages for lost wages and benefits.

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Should you consult an attorney experienced in employment-related legal issues?

If you are involved in an employment-related legal dispute, or if you have been discriminated against or otherwise had your employment rights violated, the short answer is: Yes. In most cases, violations of employment laws must be addressed promptly — and in a specific legal manner — in order to be seriously considered in a court of law. You will benefit greatly from having the support of a reputable attorney who is knowledgeable about the law(s) that pertain to your situation. Employment law encompasses myriad areas of legal concern, so most employment lawyers focus on particular aspects of the law. It is in your best interest to promptly seek and engage an attorney who specializes in the area of employment law that applies to you and your circumstances.