Wrongful Termination—Retaliation

When you lose a job, you may question whether your boss had the right to fire you. Generally speaking, Oregon is at at-will employment state, which means that your boss can fire you for any reason at any time. But, there is an exception to that rule, and that exception is called “wrongful termination.” There are three types of wrongful terminations. A termination is wrongful if it:

  1. violates state, local or federal law;
  2. violates a contract; or
  3. goes against public policy.

Most cases of wrongful termination involve terminations that violate laws. Most often people think of terminations for discriminatory reasons, like a boss firing someone based on his religious belief or because she became pregnant. But discrimination is not the only unlawful reason for a termination. Retaliation is a different, but sometimes related, basis for wrongful termination. And if you are illegally retaliated against, you may be able to recover for your loses in court. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “Retaliation occurs when an employer, employment agency, or labor organization takes an adverse action against a covered individual because he or she engaged in a protected activity.”

Retaliation for Speaking Out About Discrimination

Both state and federal courts have made it illegal to discriminate in the workplace against members of certain protected classes. This includes (but is not limited to) discrimination based on age, race, gender, national origin, disability, and sexual orientation (at the state level). In conjunction with these laws, both the federal and state governments have passed laws that prohibit an employer from firing you for reporting or speaking out about unlawful discrimination. At the federal level, you are protected from retaliation by the Americans With Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Civil Rights Act. Protected activities include opposition to a practice believed to be unlawful discrimination, participation in an employment discrimination proceeding, and requesting a reasonable accommodation based on religion or disability. At the state level you are protected from retaliation by Oregon Revised Statute 659A.030.

Retaliation Against Whistleblowers

There are at least eight different Oregon statutes that protect whistleblowers from retaliation. This includes:

  1. Public employees cannot be retaliated against for whistleblowing under Oregon Revised Statute 659A.203.
  2. Oregon Revised Statutes 653.060 and 652.355 prevent employers from retaliating against employees who testify against them in cases about misconduct involving wages.
  3. Employees are protected from retaliation for reporting health and safety concerns to the proper authorities by Oregon Revised Statute 654.062.
  4. Employees who in good faith report what they believe to be violations of state or federal laws or regulations cannot be retaliated against because of Oregon Revised Statute 659.199.
  5. Oregon Revised Statute 659A.236 protects employees from being disciplined for testifying before the legislature or its committees.
  6. Oregon Revised Statute 659A.233 prevents retaliation against employees who report possible healthcare violations or testify at an unemployment hearing.
  7. Oregon Revised Statute 659A.230 protects whistleblower activity related to law enforcement and lawsuits.

Retaliation for Union Activity

You are usually also protected from being fired for trying to start a union or for engaging in the activities of an existing union. Most of these protections are found in the National Labor Relations Act. However, public employees are not covered by that law. Additionally, if you work for a railroad or airline you are not covered by the NLRA. Instead you are covered by the Railway Labor Act which also prevents retaliatory firing for engaging in union activity.

Workers Compensation Retaliation

Oregon Revised Statute 659A.040 protects you from being fired for filing a workers compensation claim. It also makes it illegal to fire you for testifying in a workers compensation case.

Contact HKM Employment Attorneys LLP Today

Did your company fire you in retaliation? If so, you should speak with an employment attorney as soon as possible. The lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP regularly help people who have been wrongfully terminated recover for their loses. Losing a job is a terribly difficult thing to experience, and we would like to discuss your situation with you and see if we can help. You can reach us by phone at (503) 389-1130, or you can contact us online by filling out our online form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.