Various laws are in place on both the state and federal level to protect workers against discrimination based on gender, sex, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, and other characteristics. However, all too often discrimination continues unchallenged because of one thing: fear of retaliation. Victims are afraid to speak out because they need their jobs and fear losing them or losing job benefits if they report discrimination or harassment. The same can be true of innocent bystanders. Many people witness discrimination and know it is wrong, but do nothing to stop it for fear of losing their jobs. However, both victims of and witnesses who report discrimination are protected. Retaliation is against the law.
Retaliation Law in Oregon
Many different statutes cover retaliation claims in Oregon. There are general whistleblower protections that handle things like reporting criminal activity by your employer or testifying in a civil trial against your employer, as well as testifying at various other government hearings. However, retaliation in discrimination cases is governed by Oregon’s Fair Employment Practices Act. That law specifically says it is unlawful for “any person to discharge, expel or otherwise discriminate against any other person because that other person has opposed any unlawful practice, or because that other person has filed a complaint, testified or assisted in any proceeding under this chapter or has attempted to do so.”
If the discrimination that a person reports is based on a person’s disability, slightly different provisions apply. The retaliation protections are found in Oregon Revised Statute 659A.109. These protections are very similar to the retaliation protections related to other types of discrimination, but the law refers back to the discrimination statutes that deal specifically with disability discrimination. Because disability discrimination can take different forms than other types of discrimination, specific statutes deal with this area of law.
Federal Law on Retaliation
Federal law provides a host of protections against discrimination, and as a part of those laws the federal government also made retaliation unlawful. The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is involved in claims of discrimination under the federal civil rights act. This agency provides a useful fact sheet about federal retaliation law. Basically, employers cannot fire, demote, harass, or otherwise retaliate against you for filing a charge of discrimination, participating in a discrimination proceeding, or otherwise opposing discrimination. Your employer cannot take any adverse actions against you. Examples of adverse actions are:
- Employment actions such as termination, refusal to hire, and denial of promotion,
- Other actions affecting employment such as threats, unjustified negative evaluations, unjustified negative references, or increased surveillance; and
- Any other action such as an assault or unfounded civil or criminal charges that are likely to deter reasonable people from pursuing their rights.
Contacting the Employment Attorneys at HKM
If you have been retaliated against in the workplace, you should speak with an attorney as soon as possible. We invite you to speak with us at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP to set up a consultation of your case. You can reach us today by calling (503)389-1130.