Oregon Wrongful Termination

What is Considered Wrongful Termination in Oregon?

“Wrongful termination” is a phrase we hear frequently from people who have been fired for unfair reasons, but what may be considered “wrongful” under ordinary principles of fairness is not always “wrongful” in the eyes of the law. This article will discuss wrongful terminations that go beyond merely being unwarranted or unfair, and cross the line to being illegal.

It is important to know the difference between an unfair and an illegal termination. One has legal recourse, the other does not. Sometimes terminated employees are offered a severance package that requires them to give up their legal rights to seek recourse. If you believe your termination was wrongful, you will want to know what your legal rights are and what your case is worth before signing any severance paperwork that releases your claims against your employer.

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Adverse action: wrongful termination
Worker being fired due to racism in the workplace

What Is Wrongful Termination?

Oregon, like most states, is an “at will” employment state. That means the employment relationship only lasts as long as each party “wills” it to. Either party can end the employment relationship at any time and for any reason, or for no reason at all.

The right to terminate the employment relationship “for any reason” includes reasons that we would ordinarily consider unjust or unfair. A business owner might terminate an employee to make room for a family member that the owner wants to hire. While that move reeks of nepotism and unfairness, it does not translate into illegal behavior.

Likewise, an employer could mistakenly believe you stole money from the cash register and fire you. Even if you have incontrovertible evidence that someone else stole the money, proving that your employer was “wrong” about its decision does not mean the decision was “illegal.”

While the at-will employment law gives both the employer and the employee significant discretion to end the employment relationship for just about any reason they see fit, there are some important exceptions that the law carves out to protect employees.
Below is a common, but not exclusive, list of illegal reasons to fire someone in Oregon:

    • Firing someone because they have a “protected characteristic” (race, age, gender, sexual orientation, medical condition, national origin, etc.)
    • Firing someone in retaliation for reporting, opposing, or complaining about discriminatory employment practices
    • Firing a whistleblower who reports illegal activities or other corporate wrongdoing
    • Firing someone who refuses to violate the law
    • Firing an employee who reports a work injury or files a claim for worker’s compensation benefits
    • Firing someone who reports unsafe or unhealthy working conditions
    • Firing an employee because the employee exercised certain statutory rights, such as requesting medical leave, sick leave, or unpaid wages
    • Firing an employee in breach of an employment contract

If you believe one or more of these reasons was behind your firing, you may have a claim for wrongful termination. We would encourage you to contact a Portland wrongful termination lawyer to discuss why you believe your employer’s actions were illegal. If you would like a free consultation with us to discuss your case, feel free to give us a call, send us a text, or book an online appointment.

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What Should I Do If I’m a Victim of Wrongful Termination?

Sometimes employees may see the “writing on the wall” before they are terminated. Most terminations do not occur suddenly, but instead are preceded by a series of unfair write-ups, hostile attitudes, or efforts to sabotage your job performance.
Whether you feel like your head is on the chopping block or you’ve already been given a pink slip, it is essential to remain calm in the time leading up to or shortly following a termination.

If you feel like a termination is on its way, you should take steps to preserve any documentation that might support a wrongful termination case. If you have performance reviews, disciplinary write-ups, or other documents that might evidence the unfair treatment you experienced, you should make copies so your lawyer can review them in assessing your case.

Be careful not to take information and documents that you did not have access to as part of your job. If your employer finds out you took documents you were not authorized to access, that could give your employer a legitimate reason for firing you when it did not otherwise have one. You also want to be careful about taking documents that contain confidential and sensitive information about other people. If you have questions about what kinds of documents you can keep from your job, you should get the advice of an Oregon employment lawyer before taking anything.

If you have already been terminated, you are likely reeling from the bad news and perhaps feeling overwhelmed. In stressful situations such as these, we often try to cope by taking our mind off the problem. You might be inclined to get rid of anything in your possession that reminds you of your old job. But hold off; you could destroy important evidence that might help you prove a case of wrongful termination.

Don’t take any rash actions. Let cooler heads prevail. Gather your old work materials and put them aside – out of sight, out of mind. Once your emotions have settled, review your materials for documents that might disprove your employer’s reasons for terminating you. Policy documents, handbooks, performance reviews, and other documents demonstrating you were a good employee could prove invaluable if you decide to pursue legal action.

For most of us, our jobs are not just a way to make money. They can give meaning to our lives and help us provide for those we love. Facing a wrongful termination can be one of the most stressful situations we encounter in our lives. A wrongful termination can not only derail a career, but also jeopardize the financial security and wellbeing of the illegally fired employee and his or her family.

It is important that you take steps to protect yourself and your career. The first step is getting your emotions under control. The next step is to preserve any documents that might support your case. The third step is to contact a Portland wrongful termination lawyer who can advise you of your rights and hold your employer accountable for the harm you suffered.

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What Compensation is Available for Wrongful Termination?

If you and your lawyer successfully show that your employer wrongfully terminated your employment, you may be entitled to financial compensation and other remedies, such as reinstatement to your former position.

Financial compensation for wrongful termination includes your “economic” losses – typically measured by your lost earnings and benefits. In some cases, a wrongful termination can stain an employee’s work record and follow the employee around for the rest of their career. This could lead to extended financial losses well into the future.

Wrongfully terminated employees may also be able to recover compensation for the distress, mental anguish, embarrassment, and humiliation that their employer caused them to go through. The amount of these awards depends on how well you can articulate the emotional impact that your termination had on you. For this reason, we recommend keeping a daily journal or log where you can describe your thoughts and feelings about the way you were treated and how it affected your life. As time passes, memories fade, so keeping a written record of these reflections can help you remember your experiences later on down the road, when you will need to describe the emotional effects of your firing so you can recover the maximum amount of compensation.

If your employer’s conduct was malicious, you can also recover punitive damages. These are damages that the court or jury assesses to send a message that the defendant’s conduct was despicable and will not be tolerated in our community. These awards vary widely in amounts, and are driven by how egregious the employer’s conduct was.

If the wrongful termination violated certain statutes, you can also ask the court to award you attorney’s fees. In wrongful termination cases, attorneys like the Law Office of Kevin A. Jones generally accept cases on a contingency basis, which means they will be paid a certain percentage of any financial recovery they can get for you. In the event you win your case, a court can order the defendant to reimburse you a reasonable amount for attorney’s fees so that you are made completely whole.

The court can also award you the costs incurred in bringing you lawsuit, as well as other forms of equitable relief.

All of these remedies are not necessarily available in every case. Your remedies will be determined by the specific law your employer violated when terminating your employment. If you have any questions about your remedies for a wrongful termination, please feel free to contact our office and we would be glad to review your situation and outline any potential remedies you may have.

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Do I Need to Hire a Wrongful Termination Attorney?

Wrongful termination cases are often highly technical and complex. Further complicating matters, your employer may not be forthcoming about the true reasons for firing you. In these situations, your case must be proven through “circumstantial” evidence that shows what your employer was really up to. Circumstantial evidence can be hard to identify and even harder to obtain. Usually most of this evidence is exclusively held by your employer. You will therefore need an attorney who knows how to utilize the court system and procedures for obtaining this evidence from the other side.

It is inadvisable to pursue a wrongful discharge case on your own. Your employer will have a team of lawyers who will fight you at every step to protect your employer’s interests. They will try to discredit you, obstruct you from obtaining evidence, and attempt to get your case thrown out on technicalities. You have a much better chance of obtaining a successful outcome with the guidance and protection of an experienced wrongful termination attorney.

Employment law is constantly evolving. New court decisions are handed down every day that may impact your case. One misstep can be fatal to your rights. It is critical that you work with an attorney who stays on top of the law and is experienced in handling cases like yours. An attorney can help you locate and avoid the landmines buried in the road to justice.

Many people who have been wrongfully terminated are in a difficult financial position and do not have the resources to pay an attorney to pursue a wrongful termination case. But do not let your financial difficulties dissuade you from reaching out to a lawyer. As mentioned above, most attorneys who handle cases in this area for employees are willing to take the cases on a contingency fee basis. Any attorney’s fees are typically calculated as a percentage of your financial recovery, and if you do not get a financial recovery, you do not pay attorney’s fees.

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Payment of attorney’s fees is “contingent” on your attorney getting you a financial recovery.

Courts allow these contingent fee arrangements because they want employees with legitimate claims to pursue them. Pursuing legitimate claims helps enforce our laws and keeps employers from harming other employees.

Some law firms will require that you pay for a consultation before they take your case on a contingency fee basis. Not us. We will gladly talk to you for free and lay out your options. If it is a case we can help with and we determine it is a good fit for our practice area, we will explain the process for hiring us and moving forward with your case. If we determine that we can’t take your case, we hope to at least leave you better informed of your legal rights. Many people we talk to feel more calm and knowledgeable by the end of our consultation.

If you believe there is even a chance that your employer wrongfully terminated your employment, we strongly encourage you to contact a Portland employment lawyer at the earliest opportunity. These cases can have short deadlines to take action, which if you miss, you will not be able to pursue your case.

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Kevin offers a free, no-obligation consultation to any person facing a legal problem. During your call, Kevin will review your situation, answer your questions, and inform you of your legal rights.

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In his first decade of experience, Kevin has tried and argued more cases in court than most attorneys have in their entire careers.

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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.

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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.

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Law Office of Kevin A. Jones
1 SW Columbia St
Suite 1850
Portland, OR 97204

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