Oregon Whistleblower Laws

Whistleblower laws as they apply to the state of Oregon

A Summary of Oregon Whistleblower Laws

Oregon is an employment-at-will state. This means employees can be discharged from work for any reason or no reason. However, there are a few exceptions to this doctrine that are used to protect employees from wrongful retaliation. These exceptions include common law protections and statutory protections. Statutory protections are laws that are enacted by the state’s legislature to address specific subject areas, e.g., workers’ compensation, whereas common law protections are laws that are created by courts to address subject areas that are not covered by enacted laws.

This is a summary of Oregon Whistleblower Laws, make sure to check out the Federal Whistleblower Laws as well.

Whistleblower Rights in Oregon

Common Law Protections for Whistleblowers in Oregon

Oregon has a public policy that is applied as an exception to the employment-at-will doctrine. Therefore, it is illegal for employers to discharge an employee for reasons that violate public policy. To determine whether an employee is eligible for protection under the state’s public policy, the courts usually rely on statutory protections, constitutional provisions, and prior judicial opinions. For example, if a statute endorses a worker’s right to file a workers’ compensation claim, an employer who discharges an employee in retaliation for exercising such a right may be found guilty of violating public policy. Generally, Oregon protects employees who engage in the following activities from wrongful discharge:

  • Reporting suspected physical abuse.
  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim.
  • Refusing to commit perjury.
  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim.
  • Refusing to disclose a customer’s confidential information.
  • Filing a complaint concerning dangerous working conditions.
  • Refusing to make false accusations against a fellow employee.

Statutory Protections for Whistleblowers in Oregon

Public Employees Protections

It is unlawful for public employers and non-profit employers to take any disciplinary action against a public employee in retaliation for:

  • Discussing the activities of any state agency or state representatives with a member of the Legislative Assembly, legislative committee staff, or other relevant representatives of the state.
  • Disclosing information concerning a violation of state or federal law, rule or regulation by the employer, mismanagement, waste of funds, abuse of authority, or substantial danger to public health and safety.
  • Disclosing information that evidences that a person receiving services, benefits, or assistance from the state is subject to a felony or misdemeanor warrant for arrest issued by a state or federal government.

Also, employers are not allowed to require their employees to notify them before making the above disclosures. Or. Rev. Stat. 659A.203.

Protection For Reporting Violation Of Laws

It is unlawful for employers to discharge, demote, alter terms of employment, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for reporting in good faith a violation of a state or federal law, rule, or regulation. Or. Rev. Stat. 659A.199.

Protection For Aiding In Criminal Or Civil Proceedings

It is unlawful for an employer to discharge, suspend, alter terms of employment or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Reporting in good faith another person’s criminal activities.
  • Filing a complaint or assisting in the filing of a complaint against another person.
  • Cooperating with any law enforcement agency conducting a criminal investigation.
  • Bringing a civil proceeding against the employer.
  • Testifying in a criminal proceeding or trial.

Or. Rev. Stat. 659A.230.

Abuse in Assisted Living Facilities

No facility, community program, or person is allowed to retaliate against an individual for reporting in good faith suspected abuse of a resident of an assisted living facility. Or. Rev. Stat. 430.755.

Adult Foster Homes

Owners or operators of adult foster homes are not allowed to dismiss, harass, or in any way retaliate against an employee in retaliation for filing a complaint with the licensing agency about the adult foster care home or being interviewed about a complaint by the licensing agency. Or. Rev. Stat. 443.765.

Discrimination

No person is allowed to discharge, expel or in any way discriminate against another person in retaliation for:

  • Opposing unlawful practices.
  • Filing a complaint under this statute.
  • Testifying or assisting in a proceeding under this statute.

Under this statute, employers are not allowed to discriminate against any individual on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, or age if the individual is 18 years of age or older. Or. Rev. Stat. 659A.030(1)(f).

Discrimination Disabled Persons

It is unlawful for employers to alter terms of employment or in any way discriminate against an individual in retaliation for applying for benefits, invoking or making use of the procedures, or giving testimony under Oregon’s law that prohibits discrimination in real property transactions against individuals. This statute only applies to employers with 6 or more employees. Or. Rev. Stat. 659A.109. 659A.106.

Employee Housing

It is unlawful for employers to discharge, suspend, demote, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a complaint concerning Oregon’s employee housing laws.
  • Conferring with or inviting authorized persons and invited persons to residential areas.

Or. Rev. Stat. 659A.259.

Family Leave

Employers are not allowed to in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Inquiring about the provisions of Oregon’s family leave laws.
  • Submitting a request for family leave.
  • Invoking any provision of Oregon’s family leave laws.

Under this statute, employers are required to grant their employees family leave if the leave is taken for the following purposes:

  • To take care of an infant or newly adopted child.
  • To take care of a family member with a serious health condition.
  • To seek treatment or recover from a serious health condition.
  • To deal with the death of a family member.
  • To take care of a child of the employee who is suffering from an illness.

The family leave laws do not apply to employers with less than 25 employees.

Or. Rev. Stat. 659A.183, 659A.153.

Occupational Safety and Health

It is unlawful for an employer to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Opposing practices forbidden by the Oregon Safe Employment Act, laws concerning the use of physical force by health care employees in self-defense, and laws that require agriculture employers to provide employees with certain information.
  • Filing a complaint, testifying in a proceeding, or instituting a proceeding under the laws mentioned above.
  • Exercising any right afforded by the above laws on behalf of himself, herself, or others.
  • Reporting in good faith an assault that took place on the premises of a health care employer or in the home of a patient receiving health care services.

Or. Rev. Stat. 654.062(5).

Leave to Attend a Criminal Proceeding

It is unlawful for an employer to discharge, threaten, intimidate, or in any way retaliate against an employee for taking leave to attend a criminal proceeding. Or. Rev. Stat. 659A.194.

Oregon Military Family Leave Act

Employers are not allowed to alter terms of employment or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Inquiring about the provisions of the Oregon Military Family Leave Act.
  • Submitting a request for family leave under this act.
  • Exercising a right under this act.

Under this act, employers are required to provide family leave to employees who are spouses to members of the military whenever the military spouses are called to active duty. Or. Rev. Stat. 659A.096.

Minimum Wages, Minimum Employment Conditions And Overtime For Certain Employees

Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Inquiring about the provisions of minimum wage laws, minimum employment conditions laws, and laws concerning overtime for persons employed in canneries, driers, and packing plants.
  • Filing a complaint concerning the above laws.
  • Instituting a proceeding concerning the above laws.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding concerning the laws mentioned above.

Or. Rev. Stat. 653.060.

Nursing

Hospitals are not allowed to retaliate against a nursing staff for:

  • Reporting to a manager, public body, or accredited organization a practice or policy of the hospital that violates a law, rule, or professional standard that the staff reasonably believes poses a risk to the safety and health of the patients or public.
  • Providing information or testifying before a public body or organization investigating a practice or policy that is in violation of a law, rule, or professional standard and poses a risk to the safety and health of the patients or public or for refusing to participate in any such practice or policy.
  • Participating in a committee, peer review process, or filing a complaint concerning unsafe, dangerous, or potentially dangerous care.

To be eligible for protection under this statute, a nursing staff is required to notify a manager of the hospital of the violation and allow the hospital reasonable opportunity to correct the violation. However, this is not applicable if the nursing staff:

  • Knows that the manager is aware of the violation, and an emergency exists.
  • Reasonably fears physical harm as a result of the disclosure.
  • Makes the disclosure to a public body or relevant organization to provide evidence of a crime.

Or. Rev. Stat. 441.174.

Wage Claims

Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Making a wage claim or discussing, inquiring, or consulting an attorney about a wage claim.
  • Instituting a proceeding under this statute.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding under this statute.
  • Inquiring, filing a complaint, or reporting a violation concerning maximum working hours.

Or. Rev. Stat. 652.355.

Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Employers are not allowed to discriminate against a worker with regards to any term or condition of employment in retaliation for:

  • Filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.
  • Invoking or utilizing the procedures under workers’ compensation benefits laws.
  • Giving testimony under workers’ compensation benefits laws.

This statute only applies to employers with more than 5 employees. Or. Rev. Stat. 659A.040.

Adult and Medical Use of Cannabis Act

Licensees are not allowed to discharge, suspend, alter terms of employment, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for reporting in good faith a violation of the Adult and Medical Use of Cannabis Act to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Or. Rev. Stat. 475B.010.

Whistleblower Retaliation Claims in Oregon

Common Law

Lawsuits under common law should be filed within 2 years of the retaliatory action.

Statutes

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, complaints under any of Oregon’s statutes should be filed within 1 year of the retaliation. Aggrieved persons can also choose to file a lawsuit.

Employee Housing

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries.

Occupational Safety and Health

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries within 90 days of the retaliatory action.

Discrimination

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Oregon Civil Rights Division.

Whistleblower Hotlines in Oregon

To file a complaint with the Bureau of Labor and Industries, call 971-673-0761.

To file a complaint with the  Oregon Civil Rights Division, call 971-673-0761.

Whistleblower Retaliation and Violation Penalties in Oregon

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to the aggrieved employee for a combination or any of the following:

  • Injunctive relief.
  • Reinstatement to the previous job position or equivalent position.
  • Reinstatement of full benefits and seniority rights.
  • Lost wages.
  • Litigation costs.
  • Punitive damages.
  • Plus any other appropriate relief.

General Retaliation and Violation Penalties for Certain Statutes

  • Public Employees
  • Protection For Reporting Violation Of Laws
  • Protection For Aiding In Criminal Or Civil Proceedings
  • Discrimination
  • Leave to Attend a Criminal Proceeding
  • Minimum Wages, Minimum Employment Conditions And Overtime For Certain Employees
  • Wage Claims
  • Workers’ Compensation Benefits
  • Adult and Medical Use of Cannabis Act
  • Employee Housing

Employers or individuals who violate the statutes listed above may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Injunctive relief.
  • Reinstatement or hiring of the complainant with or without back pay.
  • Costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.
  • Plus any other equitable relief deemed appropriate by the court.

The payment of back may be limited to 2 years after the filing of the complaint or filing of an action. Or. Rev. Stat. 659A.885.

Public Employees

Employers who violate this statute may be found guilty of a class A misdemeanor.

Abuse in Assisted Living Facilities

Violators of this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for actual damages and also, a penalty not exceeding $1000.

Adult Foster Homes

Violators of this statute may be liable for a civil penalty ranging from $100 to $250 per violation. In case the abuse of a resident of an adult home is substantiated, the violator may be liable for a penalty ranging from $100 to $1000 per violation.

Nursing

Hospitals which violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved nursing staff for:

  • Injunctive relief.
  • Reinstatement to the previous job position or equivalent position.
  • Reinstatement of full benefits and seniority rights.
  • Compensation for lost wages, benefits, and other remuneration, including interest.
  • Litigation costs, including expert witness fees and reasonable attorney’s fees.
  • Punitive damages.

More Oregon Laws

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