Oregon is an at-will employment state, which means that your employer can generally fire you for any reason, or no reason at all, at any time.
There are exceptions to this rule. Some of these exceptions include if you were fired because of discrimination, in violation of a state or federal law or if you refused to participate in harassment.
Another exception is if you were fired for reporting a safety violation or refused to work in an unsafe environment. If you’ve been fired because of this, you could have a claim for wrongful termination.
You have a legal right to a safe working environment and to tell your employer about unsafe working conditions without fear of being fired or otherwise retaliated against.
What is a safe working environment?
It can be difficult to know what a safe working environment means. Some of your rights to a safe working environment include receiving proper training in a language that you understand, having safe working equipment and receiving all items you need to perform your job safely.
When you believe there is a safety violation in your workplace, you have a right to report the violation to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). You should also alert your employer about the violation, if possible.
OSHA will send someone out to conduct an inspection of your workplace. You have the right to talk with the inspector about your experience with the unsafe working conditions.
Can I refuse to work?
It may take time to receive a response from OSHA and/or your employer might refuse to fix the condition. In situations where your unsafe working conditions present a risk of death or serious physical harm, you have a right to refuse to work until the condition is fixed.
You might be nervous about filing an OSHA complaint yourself or be unsure about the process. You can have a third party file a complaint for you, such as a union representative, friend, family member or an attorney.