Employees who are first terminated from their jobs may be in such a panic that they do not consider the important question as to whether that termination was actually lawful and legitimate. The termination is a formal process that brings about certain obligations on both the employer and employee.
One of the more complex parts of the law is that which relates to a termination with a discharge. Oregon has adopted an employer-at-will stance. In practical terms, that status allows either the employer or employee to terminate the contract at any moment and for any reason (unless otherwise declared illegitimate).
The basic source of exemptions is the law of the land and the terms of the contract. The law includes both federal and local laws. The contract includes explicit terms that are expressed by either party and those implicit ones that can be read into the contract by the courts based on precedents. It is this court process that has added a list of exemptions under which the employment-at-will stance may be successfully challenged. That means that the discharge can be successfully challenged in court if it falls within the ambit of excluded activities. Many employers make the mistake of assuming that they can just sack anybody at will for any reason.
Key Issues to be Noted by Both the Employer and Employee
The first exemption is where the local and federal state law grants employees the rights to engage in a particular activity or enjoy a particular benefit. If that is the case, no employer can legitimately discharge, discipline, or retaliate against any of their employees for engaging in that activity. This exemption includes the actual activity, requests to engage in the activity, and attempts to engage in the activity. For example, employers are not allowed to sack employees for taking time off work to go and engage in jury service.
Likewise, elected officials cannot be discharged or threatened with discharge because they have been elected to public office. If you fall under this category, you must hire an attorney immediately to help you deal with the case. It is forbidden for employers to engage in any retaliatory activity against employees because they have raised complaints about unequal pay violations. Likewise, they cannot be punished for participating in or appearing as witnesses in an investigation. This provision is meant to avoid the ridiculous situation in which people are unable to get involved in legitimate court-sanctioned processes because the employer does not want them to do so.
Child Support and Similar Arrangements
It is forbidden for employers to discharge or threaten to discharge people whose wages have been garnished for any given reason. Likewise, this is not a legitimate ground for discriminating against potential applicants for a job. This is even more important if the person has consumer debt and the employer attempts to sack them because of it. This would be a violation of the law and could lead to fines for the employer.
Employers should take note of the Oregon Safe Employment Act. It is never a legitimate ground for dismissal simply because an employee has opposed a practice that is forbidden by the act. That would be tantamount to placing a gag order on potential whistleblowers.
Good Practice Once Termination has Occurred
All wages earned and unpaid at the time must be paid. This payment must not occur later than the first business day after the discharge or termination. Those non-contracted workers need only give 48 hours’ notice for their wages to be immediately payable. That notice period excludes Saturdays, holidays, and Mondays. You can contact us at (206) 400-7722 for further clarification on these matters.