The employment law in Oregon is largely a reactive response to the problems that have been encountered in the conduct of the employer-employee relationship. Some employers in Oregon engage in what is tantamount to wage theft. In this case, the employee has to take advantage of some of the avenues for recouping their wages that are available to them. The Oregon labor law specifically allows for securing backdated wages that have been denied to the employee.
Then, there is a problem of employers that retaliate against legitimate complaints about their practice. Some of these retaliations are actually violent and can cause significant harm to the employee. Other employers prefer a much subtler approach in which wages are deducted without the employee even noticing what is happening to them. It is this clandestine activity that is so difficult to decipher and root out. An assumption is made that everyone is acting according to the letter of the law when that may not be the case at all.
The law is designed to create a level playing field rather than trying to punish employers. Despite some complaints, the Oregon labor laws are still largely considered to be pro-business. Nevertheless, the current provisions have also been criticized for leaving some loopholes that are easily exploited by unscrupulous employers. A case in point are the deductions for lunch breaks, which employees routinely have to suffer.
Claims that are Not Made
It is for this reason that in the financial year 2012–2013, employees living in Oregon filed up to $3 million worth of claims for wages that had been earned but not duly paid. The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries is the primary recipient and arbitrator of these claims. Some experts say that the problem could even be much worse since many claims are not filed on account of fear of retaliation. Other employees are simply not aware of their rights under the new labor laws.
The fact that an employer can mask a retaliatory dismissal as a routine rationalization of the workforce is a major source of concern for those that rely on their jobs for their livelihoods. Even though the employer has certain obligations, they can still find ways of getting out of them. Few employers will come out and say that they are demoting or sacking an employee because they have made a claim under the labor law provisions. Indeed, such an admission might be used in a civil suit to work against the employer. Instead, they let it be known in subtle ways that those who do not complain will be rewarded, and those who complain will be ostracized.
The Problems for Undocumented Workers in Oregon
Things become even trickier if the affected worker is an undocumented immigrant. In this case, the employer will use the threat of deportation in order to allow for compliance. There are not enough whistleblower provisions that cater to this type of victim. Indeed, a complaint about working conditions may end up triggering deportation proceedings once the authorities realize that this is an undocumented person.
Tips for Getting Your Rights Acknowledged
As a starting point, you need access to an attorney who is well-versed in this aspect of Oregon law. Your attorney should have an understanding of the latest provisions as well as how they relate to your specific case. This is a part of the law that is always in development as employers find new ways of getting out of some of the provisions that they consider to be disadvantageous to them. If you are working in Oregon and feel that you rights as a worker are being trampled on in any way, you can contact us at (206) 400-7722.