In Oregon, it is unlawful for employers to retaliate against employees who make complaints. As an Oregon employer or employee, you probably already knew this. As with most work-place rights, the devil is in the details, and those details can sometimes be elusive. Whether an employee is protected from retaliation depends on variety of factors, such as whether the employer is public or private, the nature of employee complaint, and to whom it was made.
There are several Oregon statutes that protect employees from retaliation. The one that most Oregon lawyers know and litigate is ORS 659A.199. It protects all employees who, in good faith, report information that the employee “believes is evidence of a violation of a federal or state law, rule or regulation.” To be protected, the report must be refer to events that that employee in good faith believes to be unlawful or criminal. Because the statute is designed to encourage such reports, the conduct need not actually be unlawful for the report to be protected. It is the employee’s good faith belief in the unlawfulness of the activity that controls. Oregon employees have whistleblower protection under the statute for internal and external reports, so long as the report is “intended or likely” to result in enforcement of the law. Employees who prevail in an ORS 659A.199 lawsuit can recover economic damages, emotional distress damages, and their attorneys fees.
While ORS 659A.199 offers broad protection from retaliation for Oregon whistleblowers, it is not the only statute that protects workplace complaints. The following laws also protect Oregon workers from retaliation:
- ORS 659A.230 – Protects public employees from retaliation for reporting criminal activity
- ORS 652.355 – Protects employees from retaliation for making a wage claim or discussing, inquiring about or consulting an attorney about a wage claim.
- ORS 659A.030(1)(f) – Protects employees from retaliation for opposing unlawful discrimination (such as race, sex, national origin, or sexual orientation discrimination)
- ORS 659A.040 – Protects employees from retaliation for applying for worker’s compensation benefits
- ORS 659A.096 – Protects employees from retaliation for applying for or even inquiring about taking family medical leave
While the precise contours and scope of these laws vary, they all share one important trait: they protect Oregon employees from retaliation or discrimination for invoking their statutory legal rights. If you are an Oregon employer or employee with questions about workplace retaliation laws, we encourage you to contact us.