Oregon is an at-will employment state where a worker may be fired at any time for almost any reason except if the termination violates a contract or Oregon or federal law. Knowing your employment law rights if you lose your job is important for your career and economic well-being.
Employers must pay fired employees all wages owed by the end of the first business day after termination. An employee who quits without providing 48 hours’ notice, excluding holidays and weekends, is entitled to their wages within five days or on the next scheduled payday.
Failure to comply with an employment contract governing the reasons and procedures for firing may constitute a breach of contract action. Sometimes, written policies or policies contained in an employee handbook can also govern firings.
Collective bargaining agreements usually cover union employees and provide grievance procedures. Workers must follow the grievance procedures after firing, demotion, discipline, or other adverse job action. Employees may also have grounds for a breach of contract action if their grievance is unsuccessful.
Federal and Oregon laws
Numerous federal and state laws provide employment rights. Violations of federal and state laws may also allow, in addition to lost wages and other compensation, recovery of attorney fees.
It is illegal to fire a worker because of their race, religion, color, sex and sexual orientation, origin of birth, marital status, age, disability or juvenile record. Oregon law also protects workers for:
- Reporting alleged violations of some Oregon safety and health regulations
- Reporting unlawful activity as a whistleblower
- Testifying at an unemployment compensation hearing.
- Seeking workers’ compensation
- Participating in jury duty
- Filing a safety complaint
- Military service
- Asking for family or sick leave
- Filing a complaint with the Bureau of Labor and Industries or Equal Opportunity Commission
Workers may file a wrongful discharge claim in some circumstances such as resisting on-the-job sexual harassment or refusing to sign a statement critical of another worker’s character. Generally, it is illegal to fire an employee for fulfilling their societal obligation, or asserting rights related to their employee role guaranteed by contract, law, the constitution, or public policy.
Sometimes, intolerable conduct that compelled a worker to quit can be grounds for legal action. Courts may treat this as an unlawful termination.