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Quick and Easy Guide to Labor & Employment Law: Oregon

This state-specific guide covers labor and employment case law, statutes, rules, and regulations that HR professionals and clients often encounter or have questions about in Oregon.

At-Will Employment

Oregon At-Will Employment

In Oregon, the law allows termination of an employment relationship by either the employer or the employee without notice and without cause. This is called at-will employment. Generally, unless there is a contract or law that states otherwise, Oregon employers may discharge an employee at any time and for any reason, or for no reason at all. Nees v. Hocks, 272 Or. 210, 216 (Or. 1975). Likewise, an employee may terminate the employment relationship for any reason or for no reason. Cocchiara v. Lithia Motors, Inc., 353 Or. 282, 290 (Or. 2013).

Ordinarily, both the employer and employee may terminate the employee relationship without liability. Nees v. Hocks, 272 Or. 210, 216 (Or. 1975). However, employers may not fire or let employees go because of discriminatory reasons. In addition, Oregon employers may not fire an employee in retaliation for bringing to light unlawful practices undertaken by the employer. Oregon employers are also not permitted to terminate employees for their adherence to public policy or for fulfilling a societal obligation. Nees v. Hocks, 272 Or. 210, 210 (Or. 1975); Delaney v. Taco Time Int'l, 297 Or. 10, 12 (Or. 1984).

Right-to-Work Laws

Oregon has no right-to-work statute or constitutional provision.

Immigration Verification

Oregon places no requirement on employers to verify immigration status beyond Federal I-9 compliance. Oregon does not mandate use of E-Verify.

Drug and Alcohol Testing

OR. Rev. Stat. § 438.435

In Oregon, there is no law governing pre-employment or employment drug testing. However, all Oregon employers must comply with state alcohol-testing laws. Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 659.840; 659A.300. An employer may require an employee or applicant to be tested for alcohol if the employee or applicant consents to the test or if there is reasonable suspicion the employee or applicant is under the influence of alcohol. Or. Rev. Stat. §§ 659.840(1); 659A.300(4).

While Oregon laws do not specifically regulate drug testing, employees can only be tested for substances in a laboratory licensed by the state that follows certain procedural safeguards or onsite in limited circumstances. Or. Rev. Stat. § 438.435. Generally, positive test results must be confirmed by a state-licensed authority. Or. Rev. Stat. § 438.435(3).

Jury Duty Leave

OR. Rev. Stat. § 10.090

It is unlawful for an employer to discharge an employee because of missing work due to jury service. An employer also may not threaten to discharge, intimidate, or coerce an employee because of jury service. An employee who is subjected to such actions may bring a civil action or file a complaint with the commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries. The employer's personnel policies, or specific employment agreement, will determine whether any compensation is payable to an employee during jury service. There is no statutory requirement that an employer pay salary or wages during an employee's jury service.

Voting Leave

No laws require companies to give workers time off to vote.

Family and Parental Leave

OR. Rev. Stat. § 659A.150 – 659.A 186

If the employer has 25 or more employees, the employee can qualify for protected leave under the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA). Thus, by law, the employee is allowed to take protected time off to take care of oneself or family members. Currently, family leave is protected, but often unpaid unless the individual has vacation, sick, or other paid leave available to use. Paid family leave is coming to Oregon in 2023.

Under OFLA, an employee can take up to a total of 12 weeks of time off per year for any of these reasons:

  • Parental leave (either parent can take time off for the birth, adoption, or foster placement of a child). If the employee uses all 12 weeks on this, they can take up to 12 more weeks for sick child leave.
  • Serious health condition (employee's or to care for a spouse, parent, parent-in-law, or child)
  • Pregnancy disability leave (before or after birth of child or for prenatal care). Employee can take up to 12 weeks of this in addition to 12 weeks for any reason listed here.
  • Sick child leave (for employee's child with an illness or injury that requires home care but is not serious).
  • Employee can also take OFLA-protected time if employee's child's school or childcare provider is closed due to a statewide public health emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic school closures.
  • Military family leave (up to 14 days if the employee's spouse is a service member who has been called to active duty or is on leave from active duty).
  • Bereavement leave (up to two weeks of leave after the death of a family member).

The employer must continue to give the same health insurance benefits when the employee is on leave as when they are working. When they return to work, they must be returned to their former job or a similar position if the old job no longer exists.

Other Leave

Sick Time

OR. Rev. Stat. § 653.601-653.661

An employee can get paid sick time if the employer has 10 or more employees (six or more if they have a location in Portland). Otherwise, sick time is protected but unpaid.

An employee can use sick time if the employee or a family member is sick, injured, experiencing mental illness, or needs to visit the doctor.

An employee gets at least one hour of protected sick time for every 30 hours they work up to 40 hours per year. (Employers can choose to frontload at least 40 hours of sick time at the beginning of the year.)

An employee can begin taking sick time after they have worked for the employer for at least 90 days.

The employer must regularly let the employee know how much sick time they have earned.

Vacation Time

Oregon Benefits, Holiday and Vacation Pay

Vacation pay, holiday pay, bonuses, sick leave, and severance pay are examples of wage agreements that may be made between employers and employees as a part of the employee's total compensation. There is no legal requirement to offer these benefits. An employer is required to honor any established policy or agreement relating to the payment of benefits such as accrued vacation or severance pay upon termination.

Smoking Laws

OR. Rev. Stat. § 433.835 – 433.875

Oregon is governed by the Indoor Clean Air Act (ICAA). The ICAA applies to the smoking, vaporizing, and aerosolizing of inhalants in and around workplaces.

Smoking, vaporizing, and aerosolizing of inhalants is prohibited within 10 feet of all entrances, exits, accessibility ramps, windows that open, and vents that served a closed area.

With limited exceptions (e.g., cigar bars, smoke shops, designated hotel and motel rooms, ceremonial proceedings), workplaces and enclosed public places are subject to the law. This includes work vehicles that are not operated exclusively by one employee, as well as hotels and motels.

The ICAA also applies to e-cigarettes and vape pens.

Businesses are not required to allow smoking on the premises. Businesses may designate their premises smoke and tobacco free.

Break Time to Express Milk

OR. Rev. Stat. § 653.077

The law protecting employees who express milk applies to hourly, salaried, and part-time employees expressing milk for the employee's child 18 months of age or younger. Employers must make reasonable efforts to provide an appropriate location close to the employee's work area (other than a public restroom or toilet) for employee to express milk in private. The employer must provide the employee with reasonable unpaid rest periods to express milk for the employee's child. Employers with 10 or fewer employees may assert an exemption if providing these breaks imposes an "undue hardship."

Meal Breaks

OR. Rev. Stat. § 653.261 (also BOLI § 839-020-0050)

With some limited exceptions, for each eight-hour work shift, an employee must receive the following breaks free from work responsibilities:

  • Two 10-minute paid rest breaks
  • One 30-minute unpaid meal break

These are the minimum requirements. An employer can give longer breaks.

Minimum Wage, Overtime, and Wage Recordkeeping

Minimum Wage

OR. Rev. Stat. § 653.025

Oregon's minimum wage depends on work location. The minimum wage is $12.50 per hour in non-urban areas, $13.50 per hour in standard counties, and $14.75 per hour in the Portland metro area.

Overtime

OR. Rev. Stat. § 653.261

Oregon state labor laws regarding the payment of overtime are mostly consistent with the federal overtime laws. Most employers are covered by the FLSA, so generally the FLSA will apply and requires employers to pay time and one-half for all hours worked more than 40 per work week, unless an employee is properly classified as exempt.

Wage Recordkeeping

OR. Rev. Stat. § 652.120; OR. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 652.140

Regular paydays must be established and maintained by every employer. Payment to new employees must be made no later than 35 days from the time their work was begun. Pay periods may be established more frequently, but may not exceed 35 days.

When an employer has notice that an employee has not been paid the full amount the employee is owed on a regular payday and there is no dispute between the employer and the employee regarding the amount of the unpaid wages, the employer must pay the employee the unpaid amount if the unpaid amount is 5 percent or more of the employee's gross wages due on the regular payday, within three days after the employer has notice of the unpaid amount, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays.

When an employee is fired, all wages earned by that person are due no later than the end of the first business day after discharge.

If an employee quits with at least 48 hours of notice, wages are due the last working day (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays). If an employee quits without 48 hours of notice, wages are due in five days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays) or on the next payday, whichever occurs first.

Final Payments

OR. Rev. Stat. § 652.150

  • If an employee quits with less than 48 hours' notice (excluding weekends and holidays) the employee's paycheck and any wages owed to them are due within five business days or on the next regular payday, whichever comes first.
  • If an employee quits with at least 48 hours' notice, the employee's final check is due on their day of employment, unless that day is a weekend or a holiday. In that case, the check is due on the next business day.
  • If an employee is discharged from their employment, their final paycheck is due by the end of the next business day.
  • In the event an employer and employee mutually agree to terminate the employment relationship, the employee's check is due by the end of the following business day.

With limited exceptions, if an employer willfully fails to pay final wages when due, the employer risks the imposition of a penalty wage equal to the employee's wages for eight hours of work each day from the due date up to 30 days. With certain exceptions, employers may limit this liability to 100 percent of the employee’s unpaid wages by paying the employee their final wages within 12 days of written notice from the employee that their wages remain due.

Oregon law also provides a $1,000 civil penalty for willful failure to pay wages at termination as well as costs, interest, and attorney fees.

Unemployment Insurance

OR. Rev. Stat. § 657.150

To be eligible to receive Oregon Unemployment Insurance, an individual must meet the following criteria:

  • The individual must be unemployed. The individual must have worked in Oregon for the past 12 – 18 months.
  • The individual must have earned the minimum amount of compensation determined by applicable unemployment eligibility guidelines.
  • The individual must seek work each week he or she is collecting benefits.

Workers' Compensation

OR. Rev. Stat. ch. 656

Employers in Oregon are required to maintain workers' compensation insurance for their employees, with the exception of a few categories of workers, including:

  • Domestic servants
  • Handymen/Handywomen
  • Casual employment with a maximum labor cost of $500
  • Most shipping, railway, and airline workers
  • Most firefighters and police
  • Ski area workers who volunteer or work only for ski passes

A "compensable injury" is an accidental injury, or accidental injury to prosthetic appliances, arising out of and in the course of employment requiring medical services or resulting in disability or death. 2022 Oregon Laws Ch. 6 (H.B. 4086). A resulting injury or disease is not compensable as a consequence of a compensable injury unless the compensable injury itself is the major contributing cause of the consequential condition.

Filing Time

  • Employee must inform employer as soon as possible.
  • For aggravated injuries: five years from the date of the injury from the date of first notice of closure for a disabling claim, or after the date of injury, provided the workers' compensation claim has been classified as nondisabling for at least one year after the date of acceptance (OR. Rev. Stat. § 656.273(4)).
  • Hearing regarding denial of claim must be requested within 60 to 180 days (OR. Rev. Stat. § 656.319).

Time Limits on Benefits

Other Limits

  • Subject to seniority rights and employment restrictions in a valid collective bargaining agreement, employers with 21 or more employees at the time of an employee's injury and of a request for reinstatement are required to reinstate recovered workers (OR. Rev. Stat. § 659A.043).

Child Labor

OR. Rev. Stat. § 653.315

A child under 16 years of age may not be employed for longer than ten hours for any one day or more than six days in any one week. The Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries shall issue special permits for the employment of children under 16 years of age in agriculture for longer than 10 hours for any one day when the commissioner determines that such hours of work will not be detrimental to the health and safety of the child. Exceptions exist for children employed in youth camps, by newspaper vendors, and in private residences (e.g., domestic work, chores, childcare).

A child under 16 years of age may not work before 7:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m., except that between June 1 and Labor Day, a child under 16 years of age may be employed until 9:00 p.m.

In addition, every child under 16 years of age is entitled to at least 30 minutes for mealtime. The mealtime may not be included as part of the work hours of the day.

Gun Laws

Business owners are permitted to restrict the possession of firearms on their property. https://www.usconcealedcarry.com/resources/ccw_reciprocity_map/or-gun-laws/

Additional Laws and Regulations

Employee v. Independent Contractor

OR. Rev. Stat. § 670.600

A worker must meet the following requirements to be considered an independent contractor:

  1. The worker must be free from direction and control over the means and manner of the provision of their services, subject only to the right of the person from whom the services are provided to specify the desired result.
  2. With limited exception, the worker must be customarily engaged in an independently established business.
  3. The worker must be licensed under ORS 671 or 701 (CCB, State Landscape Architect Board, or LCB and State Board of Architect Examiners) if required for the service in question.
  4. The worker must be responsible for other licenses or certificates necessary to provide their services.

Equal Pay

OR. Rev. Stat. § 652.210 – 652.235)(OR. Rev. Stat § 659A.030

It is illegal for an employer to pay an employee less than someone else because of their race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, veteran status, disability, or age doing comparable work (including wages, bonuses, benefits, and more). However, if there is a consistent and verifiable system for pay structure, limited circumstances allow for different pay based on bona fide factors, including one or more of these: a seniority system, a merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, including piece-rate work, workplace location, travel, education, training, or experience. OR Rev Stat. § 652.220.

An employer cannot give an employee a pay cut to make their pay equal with other employees.

Genetic Information

OR. Rev. Stat. § 192.537

An individual's genetic information and DNA sample are private and protected. Any person authorized by law, an individual, or an individual's representative to obtain, retain, or use an individual's genetic information or any DNA sample must maintain the confidentiality of the information or sample, and protect the information or sample from unauthorized disclosure or misuse.

Gender Discrimination

OR. Rev. Stat. § 659A.006

It is unlawful to discriminate against any of Oregon's inhabitants because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, marital status, age, disability, or familial status.

Medical Information

OR. Rev. Stat. § 192.553

In the State of Oregon, an individual has:

  1. The right to have their protected health information safeguarded from unlawful use or disclosure; and
  2. The right to access and review their protected health information.

Social Media

OR. Rev. Stat. § 659A.330

Oregon employers may not require workers to disclose their social media account usernames and passwords or to permit the employer access to their personal social media accounts.

It is unlawful for an employer to require an employee or applicant to establish or maintain a personal social media account or to advertise on their personal social media account.

Employees have a right to talk about working conditions, including engaging in online conversations that might at times be frustrating for employers and management. Even in a non-union workplace, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) provides protection for workers to discuss larger workplace issues that could reasonably result in the formation of a union.

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Guide last updated October 2022.

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