The general rule for employees in Oregon is something called “at-will employment.” At-will employment refers to an employment agreement in which an employer can fire an employee at any time for any reason, so long as the reason does not violate a local, state, or federal law, like the laws banning discrimination based on race or sex. In other words, bosses can fire employees for the most ridiculous and unfair reasons, so long as they do not violate as specific law. However, there is an exception to this rule: if you have an employment contract, the at-will employment doctrine may not apply to you. Union employees are most likely to have employment contracts, but some other workers have them as well.
The Oregon State Bar Association (OSBA) provides helpful information about employment contracts. Unlike employment discrimination cases, which are in large part governed by statutes, a lot of contract law is based on what is called the “common law.” Common law refers to historical principles that are developed through court cases that are often based on ideas that date back to pre-colonial England. Because of this, it can be much more complicated to try to determine exactly what your rights are.
The simplest contract is a written one that states the length of the employment, the compensation, and the possible reasons for termination. If your employer violates a straightforward contract like that, you may be able to file a lawsuit to recover your job and even to get back pay. The goal of the law in this situation is to put you in the position you would have been in had the employer not broken the contract.
Video with Attorney Daniel Kalish on Contract Law
A lot of times you may not have a straightforward contract, but you may have an employee handbook that contains written policies. Usually these are not contracts, but sometimes they can be. An example the OSBA gives involves vacation pay. If your employee handbook says that upon termination, you will be paid for your unused vacation time, then that policy will be enforced against the company. Whether a specific policy will be enforced against an employer requires a careful reading of the policy and comparing it to what policies have been enforced in the past; in light of this, you should retain the services of an attorney in this type of case.
If you are in a union, the contract your union has negotiated with the company may have very strict procedures you have to follow if you believe you have been wrongfully terminated. There are often strict deadlines involved in union contracts, and it is important that you work closely with both your attorney and your union representative in union cases.
Contacting the Employment Attorneys at HKM
If you think your employer may have breached your contract, you should contact an attorney as soon as you can. The legal professionals at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP are happy to help you understand your rights and begin working on your case. Call us today at (503)389-1130 or send us a message online.