When it comes to the lawful termination of employees, employers are often beholden to wrongful termination laws dictating those times when firing a worker is not permissible. While many states offer what is known as at-will employment to workers, employers must be sure to remain in compliance with all pertinent regulations to avoid wrongful terminations. Firings that are deemed to be discriminatory (i.e. based on things such as religious belief, ethnicity or other factors) or those that involve contractual breaches can be subject to legal action by the affected employee.
At-Will Employment in Oregon
A number of states, including Oregon, uphold an at-will employment relationship with workers. At-will employment laws allow employers to terminate workers for any reason and without prior notice. In addition, at-will employment laws also provide employers with the ability to change wage rates, remove benefits or decrease the amount of paid time-off afforded to employees. In the event there exists a contract that stipulates other terms, employers must adhere to those terms when terminating workers.
Wrongful Termination in Oregon
There exist a few exceptions to at-will employment laws in Oregon that could result in violations if an employer chooses to terminate an employee based on these terms. One such exception involves an implied contract. This results when there is no express contract, but certain acts committed by an employer point to an implied agreement, such as verbal assurances of long-term employment. If an employer violates prevailing regulations regarding at-will exceptions, they can be faced with legal ramifications, including being obligated to provide the terminated employee with back pay, coverage of lawyer fees and possibly even the reinstatement of the worker in question.
Breach of Contract: In some cases, contracts will override at-will employment laws. In the event that a contract exists between employer and employee in Oregon, violation of contract terms can have legal consequences. This includes both oral and written employment agreements, as well as collective bargaining contracts existing between unions and employees. Employers must adhere to any firing criteria outlined in a contract, such as stipulations regarding a worker’s performance or other issues that may impact one’s ability to perform essential work-related tasks.
Discrimination: Discrimination is often a contributing factor in numerous wrongful termination cases. In Oregon, covered employers include those with one or more employees in both the public and private sectors, as well as labor organizations and employment agencies. Under state law, it’s illegal to fire employees due to religion, sex or sexual orientation, nation of origin, retaliation for exposing unlawful work practices, pregnancy and/or childbirth, domestic violence incident, credit history, race, disability, tobacco usage during off-hours, etc. Federal law offers many of the same protections, including coverage for employees on medical leave for either themselves or family members.
Retaliation: As mentioned above, Oregon employees cannot be fired in retaliation for bringing to light unlawful practices undertaken by an employer. Additionally, employers are not permitted to demote or withhold promotion from employees as a result of their involvement in reporting employer violations of prevailing laws. This so-called “whistleblower” coverage is often more limited when applied to employees in the private sector; however, Oregon has expanded this protection to cover private sector employees reporting violations related to health or safety issues in the work place.
Public Policy: Oregon employers are not permitted to terminate workers for their observance of public policy or those acts collectively recognized as improper grounds for firing. Adherence to public policy can include performing activities that are thought to be in the public’s best interest, such as jury duty, exercising statutory rights, refusing to commit an act that violates state or federal law or reporting employer violations of existing laws. One example includes firing an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim, which is a protected right under both state and federal law.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.