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Protecting EmployEE Rights
Employees have rights and protections under both state and federal law, even in “at will” employment states like Oregon. These laws exist to protect our economic livelihoods and keep employers from misusing their authority and power to unfairly exploit workers. But the fact of the matter is that, despite these laws, employers frequently violate employees’ rights. And when those workplace rights are violated, it can upend an employee’s career, finances, and personal life.
Employment laws are more technical and complex than many other areas of law. What may seem like blatant unfair treatment to some might not actually be considered illegal under the law. But the converse is also true. Sometimes an employer’s seemingly routine actions, such as handling leave requests, setting pay scales, or disciplining employees, can run afoul state and federal laws that require equal and fair treatment to employees. In over a decade of practicing law, I have seen countless situations where an employee was subjected to unlawful working conditions without ever knowing that what their employer did was illegal. These situations remind me of an old saying among lawyers, “If you don’t know what your rights are, you don’t have any.”
Not everyone who gets fired or mistreated at work will have a case, but if you feel you have been subjected to unfair and illegal employment practices, it is best to have a trained and experienced Portland employment lawyer review the situation and help you take steps to protect your rights.
There are legal remedies for wrongful termination in Oregon. Learn more about how a Portland wrongful termination lawyer can help you recover from a career setback.
Sexual harassment is not part of the job description. You should be able to do your job without worrying about wandering eyes and lewd remarks. Our Portland sexual harassment lawyer will stand up to workplace bullies..
Employers cannot have different standards for different sexes. Let an Oregon sex discrimination lawyer help you stand up for gender equality.
The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries can be a useful resource for employees facing discrimination or harassment in the workplace. But navigating the BOLI complaint process alone can be stressful and daunting. We are here to help.
Race or color cannot be a factor in how you are treated at work. We have made great strides in civil rights over the last century, but we still have a long way to go. Our Portland race discrimination lawyer can help you fight workplace injustice.
Don’t get punished for doing what is right. If you witnessed corporate misconduct or illegal activities, consult a lawyer familiar with Oregon’s whistleblower laws to protect your rights.
*Disclaimer: Every case is different and must be judged on its own merits. Past results do not afford any guarantee of future outcomes. Nothing on this website should be considered advice about the value of your case or a guarantee of a particular outcome.
What Our Clients Say
“Kevin was an outstanding lawyer. Not only did he do his best to win my case, he pushed for the best deal he could. I trusted him with all he recommended and it worked out the way he said it would. He also took the time to ask how I was feeling during my pregnancy and checked in with me postpartum as well. Thank you again Kevin for everything!”
“Mr. Jones went above and beyond to represent me and stood firm on our beliefs as he did so. I have zero regrets in choosing him for representation. He has a great sense of humor and is very personable. He made sure I was involved in the whole process and explained everything as he went so I could always know what was going on and how the progression was going. I couldn’t have picked a nicer or more knowledgeable person for representation.”
“Kevin is an amazing attorney. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity of having him as a lawyer to represent me. He was extremely professional and personable. He wasn’t in it for the money. He made me feel like he heard me and my story and was going to do whatever it took to help get me justice. I couldn’t have asked for a better human being to be on my side and represent me.”
What Are Some Common Employee Rights Cases?
There are numerous state and federal laws that protect employees and require that their employers treat them in a fair and consistent manner. Oregon employees are fortunate to have broader protections than employees in most other states. To assist you with identifying potential workplace violations, below are brief descriptions of some common illegal employment practices that occur in Oregon.
Some of the most common employee rights cases we see involve employment discrimination. The word “discrimination” in the employment context simply means to treat someone differently than others. But not all discrimination is illegal. For example, a business owner might give preferential treatment to the owner’s family members who also work for the business. The owner might give his or her family members favorable job assignments, better pay, flexible working hours, or earlier advancement opportunities than other employees. While this kind of nepotism can certainly be considered “discriminatory” in the sense that some workers are being treated differently than others, it is not prohibited by law. But when an employer treats an employee differently based on a protected characteristic – such as sex, age, race, religion, or medical condition – the law recognizes that type of discrimination as illegal. Below are some common forms of discrimination prohibited by state and federal law:
- Sex discrimination – This involves discrimination against employees on the basis of sex. Traditionally, most of these cases have involved discrimination against women, but it is becoming more common to see cases where men have been treated unfairly, particularly in an occupation that is predominantly held by women. Sex discrimination can occur in a variety of ways, including unequal pay for the same job, applying the company’s policies inconsistently to one gender versus another, disciplining women more harshly than men (or vice versa), taking adverse employment action against a woman due to pregnancy or childbirth, or refusing to hire or promote members of a certain sex even when they are qualified for the position.
- Race discrimination – Both state and federal laws prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on race. Sometimes race discrimination can be detected by overt racial comments in the workplace, but most often race discrimination must be discerned by looking at how an employer treats members of one race in comparison to members of another. In cases involving disciplinary action, for instance, where a black employee might have been fired for attendance reasons, we look to see whether other white employees were treated similarly under the company’s attendance policy. If not, the employer may be subject to liability for race discrimination. Race discrimination can also take the form of refusing to hire a qualified candidate, failing to promote, or wrongfully terminating an employee based on race.
- Age discrimination – Older workers often suffer from unfair biases and stereotypes that can influence an employer’s actions. Older employees ought to be valued for the experience and contributions to the employer’s business, but all too often we see employer’s casting out long-term employees like yesterday’s garbage just because they think the employees are nearing retirement, or that they “can’t keep up with change.” Under federal law, employees over the age of 40 are protected against employment decisions that take age into consideration. Oregon law goes even further and protects employees who are at least 18 years old, so it is possible that younger employees may experience “reverse” discrimination if they are treated differently than older employees.
- Sexual orientation discrimination – Oregon law expressly makes it illegal to discriminate against an employee due to his or her sexual orientation. Federal law also prohibits this type of discrimination as a form of sex discrimination.
- Religious discrimination – Employers are also prohibited from discriminating against an employee based on that person’s religious beliefs. Employers are also required to make reasonable accommodations to allow employees to practice their religious beliefs, so long such accommodations do not create an unreasonable burden on the employer. Possible religious accommodations include making exceptions to dress codes for religious garments and headwear or modifying an employee’s work schedule to allow the employee time for prayer or to observe religious holy days.
- Disability discrimination – Employees who suffer from certain medical conditions are also protected from discrimination. If the employee has a qualifying medical condition, the employer is not only prohibited from taking adverse employment action against the employee due to the condition but also must make reasonable accommodations to allow the employee to successfully perform the job. Importantly, the same laws protecting employees from discrimination due to a qualified medical condition also prohibit employers from discriminating against employees that the employer believes has a qualifying medical condition. That is, even if you do not have a qualifying medical condition, but your employer believes you do, you are still protected from disability discrimination.
We live in an age where most employers know that discrimination is illegal. As such, employers do not typically announce a discriminatory motive for their actions, and often take steps to hide their intentions. Cases where an employer tells an employee “You’re not getting this job because we don’t like blacks around here,” or “Women don’t belong in the workplace,” are not common (although we still occasionally come across cases where employers just don’t seem to care to hide their discriminatory beliefs). More commonly, employers will attempt to justify their discriminatory actions with false reasons such as poor job performance, attendance, or budget cuts. When an employer uses false reasons to cover up a discriminatory motive, these false reasons are considered “pretext.”
Proving pretext is important in discrimination cases. In fact, if you can show your employer’s reasons are false and illegitimate, the court and jury can infer from the fact that the employer lied about the reasons for the employment action that the employer was really trying to hide an unlawful motive. Experienced employment lawyers know what to look for and how to prove “pretext.” If your employer gave you suspicious reasons for an employment action and you believe illegal discrimination was really at play, consider having a Portland employment lawyer review your situation to see if you have a valid case for employment discrimination.
Hostile Work Environment
The same laws prohibiting employment discrimination also prohibit employers from subjecting employees to a hostile work environment. However, as with employment discrimination cases, the key is proving that the mistreatment was due to a protected characteristic, and the employee must typically show that the harassment and mistreatment was so offensive or pervasive to create an abusive and hostile work environment.
Some of the most common hostile work environment cases involve sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can take a variety of forms, such as inappropriate jokes, sexually offensive comments, unwanted sexual advances, physical touching, and in some particularly egregious cases, sexual assault.
If you are being mistreated at work and believe it may be due to your sex, race, age, disability, or other protected characteristic, do not hesitate to contact an experienced employment law attorney to evaluate your rights. The sooner you act, the more options you will have to protect your employment and your legal rights.
Retaliation for Reporting Discrimination & Harassment
The same laws that prohibit workplace discrimination and harassment also protect employees who speak up about illegal employment practices. When these laws were passed, our lawmakers recognized that to achieve the purposes of the anti-discrimination laws, employees must feel safe and protected when they assert their rights under those laws. Otherwise, if employers were free to punish anyone who complained about unlawful employment practices, most workers would stay silent, which would allow the employer to continue violating the law with impunity.
So, to encourage employees to enforce their legal rights, lawmakers gave employees who report or oppose workplace discrimination additional protection. It is illegal for an employer to punish you for making a complaint about illegal discrimination or harassment, or for participating in an investigation into whether unlawful discrimination has occurred. Importantly, even if the behavior you reported ultimately did not violate the anti-discrimination laws, you are still protected from retaliation so long as you reasonably believed that it did.
When an employer retaliates against an employee, the retaliation is usually subtle and may not be easy to spot. Employers know they are not supposed to retaliate against employees who come forward with concerns about discrimination or harassment, so when it happens, it usually occurs in the form of unfair disciplinary actions, heightened scrutiny, poor performance evaluations, unfavorable job assignments, hostile attitudes, and even terminations.
These are not the only ways an employer might retaliate. If you have experienced any kind of adverse employment action and you believe it came as punishment for asserting your legal rights or opposing discrimination or harassment in the workplace, reach out to a Portland employment lawyer who is experienced in protecting employee rights to discuss what happened to you.
Employees who report wrongdoing by a business are commonly called “whistleblowers.” The wrongdoing might be unethical behavior, criminal activity, fraud, deceptive business practices, health and safety violations, and much more.
State and federal whistleblowing laws provide broad protections for those employees who make good faith reports of behavior that might violate the law or professional standards. Here is a list of some of the whistleblower laws in Oregon:
- ORS 441.181 – protects nursing staff employees who disclose violations of law or violations of professional standards that pose a risk to the health, safety, and welfare of patients or the public
- ORS 652.355 – protects employees who make complain or inquire about not being paid correctly
- ORS 653.060 – protects employees who have complained, reported, or inquired about not being paid minimum wages and overtime
- ORS 654.062(5)(a) – protects employees who report violations of health and safety standards
- ORS 659.852(2) – protects students who report in good faith violations of state or federal laws
- ORS 659A.030(1)(f) – protects employees who report or oppose discriminatory employment practices
- ORS 659A.040 – protects workers who report on-the-job injuries or who make claims for worker’s compensation
- ORS 659A.199 – protects employees who report in good faith violations of state or federal laws
- ORS 659A.203 – protects public and non-profit employees who disclose possible violations of law, mismanagement, gross waste of resources, abuse of authority, or certain dangers to public health and safety
- ORS 659A.233 – protects employees who report violations of laws and licensing standards relating to residential care facilities that provide care for persons with disabilities
- ORS 659A.340 – protects employees who report abuse or mistreatment of children and other vulnerable persons by certain licensed entities
- ORS 659A.355 – protects an employee who discloses or inquires about the wages of the employee or of another employee
Wage and Hour Violations
There are strict laws and regulations that govern how employees are paid. These laws set minimum standards for wages, overtime pay, meal and rest breaks, and more. These laws differ from state to state, and even from county to county. For example, Oregon requires employees to be paid a higher minimum wage than that set by federal law, and Oregonians in certain counties and urban boundaries are required to be paid even more.
Employers can run afoul Oregon’s wage and hour laws in many different ways, including the following:
- Failing to pay minimum wages
- Failing to pay overtime wages
- Failing to pay workers for all hours worked
- Misclassifying employees to avoid paying overtime wages
- Refusing to provide required rest or meal breaks
- Withholding final paychecks
- Taking unauthorized deductions from paychecks
- Keeping tips earned by tipped employees
If you believe your employer has not paid you correctly, you should consider contacting a Portland employment lawyer who can determine if you are owed any wages. A lawyer can obtain your time and pay records, which your employer is required by law to keep for a certain period of time and advise you as to whether any legal violations occurred and what your options might be. Most law firms, like the Law Office of Kevin A. Jones, will evaluate your case for free.
Medical and Sick Leave Violations
All Oregon employers are required to provide a certain amount of sick leave to employees, which an employee can use to take time off to recover from an illness or care for a family member with medical needs. Whether that leave is paid or unpaid depends on the size of the employer. The amount of sick time an employer is required to provide is determined by a mathematical formula and also depends on how large your employer is, how long you have worked for your employer, and how many hours you have worked. You could have up to 80 hours of paid sick time depending on these factors.
Similarly, Oregon has a medical leave law that allows employees to take time off for certain medical and family issues. This law is different than Oregon’s sick leave law in that it only applies to employers with 25 or more employees, and not all employees qualify for medical leave. Typically, to be eligible for medical leave, the employee must have worked for the employer for at least 180 days and a worked an average of at least 25 hours per week (however, there is no 25-hour average workweek requirement for leave to care for a newborn or recently placed adopted or foster child). The employee can only use the medical leave for certain illnesses and conditions, and must also follow certain notice requirements to be protected.
Assuming you meet the eligibility requirements and have a qualifying medical condition, you can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical or family leave. You do not have to take it all at once – you can take your leave “intermittently” if medically necessary. During your leave, your employer may hire someone to replace you, but must reinstate you to your former position, or in some circumstances an equivalent position, after your leave concludes.
It is unlawful for an employer to deny you sick or medical leave that you are entitled to take. It is also illegal for an employer to retaliate against you for taking protected leave or invoking your leave rights. Leave laws can be a little complicated, so if you think your employer unfairly denied you medical or sick leave or punished you for taking leave, I encourage you to contact a Portland employment lawyer to make sure you understand your rights.
Do I Need A Portland Employment Attorney?
If your employer took illegal action against you, you should seriously consider hiring an experienced employment lawyer to help you enforce your rights under state and federal law. If you try to go it alone, you will not be taken seriously. Plain and simple. Sophisticated employers know you are unfamiliar with the legal process and will not be able to effectively use the legal system to hold them accountable. They have lawyers who defend cases like yours every day and specialize in getting valid cases thrown out on technicalities. You will be bullied and outmatched by a legal team that is paid to protect your employer’s interests at all costs.
This may sound self-serving, but it is the truth: Without a good attorney, you do not stand a chance against your employer. I have never seen an employee win a lawsuit without one. An employee rights lawyer will not only help you understand the law, but can also effectively utilize court procedures to move your case through the legal system, obtain evidence needed to win, and make the most persuasive presentation of your case to the court and jury. Your employment lawyer will also protect you from the unfair tactics defense lawyers commonly use to get cases like yours dismissed.
Some employees don’t call a lawyer because they think they cannot afford one. However, many law firms, including the Law Office of Kevin A. Jones, take employment cases on a contingent fee basis, meaning you do not have to pay any attorney’s fees unless you win. When you win your case, the fee is typically calculated as a percentage of the financial compensation your attorney recovers for you. Please don’t try to go it alone because you think you will be able to save yourself attorney’s fees. You are unlikely to get anything at all without an attorney, and if your employer happens to offer you a settlement, it will only be for “nuisance value” – a pittance compared to what your claim is actually worth. This is not to sell you on our services – this is reality. Even if you don’t hire us, hire someone. We would rather see you get justice with someone else than no justice at all.
If you have experienced any unlawful employment practices like workplace discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, or retaliation, please don’t hesitate to contact my law firm. I have successfully represented employees in the Portland metro area and I would be happy to talk with you about your employment issue.
Why Choose Kevin?
Kevin offers a free, no-obligation consultation to people who have potential cases within his practice areas. During your consultation, Kevin will review your situation, answer your questions, and discuss your legal options.
In his first decade of experience, Kevin has tried and argued more cases in court than most attorneys have in their entire careers.
When you hire Kevin, you get Kevin. Not a paralegal, case manager, or a lawyer fresh out of law school. Kevin limits the number of cases he takes so he can give his clients the attention they deserve.
No Recovery = No Fee
Kevin takes cases on a “contingency” basis, meaning you only pay for his legal services if he succeeds in obtaining a verdict or settlement for you.