Internal complaints count as whistleblowing under Oregon law
Harassment & DiscriminationWage and Hour
Two employees complained to their supervisors about not getting paid overtime. In a groundbreaking decision from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, these employees were protected from retaliation under Oregon law.
Oregon Whistleblower Laws: Internal and External Complaints
In Oregon, an employer cannot discriminate or retaliate against an employee who “has in good faith reported information that the employee believes is evidence of a violation of a state or federal law, rule or regulation” (Oregon Revised Statute §659A.199). The statute doesn’t specify whether a report must be made to a government agency, or whether an internal complaint would be sufficient to trigger protection from retaliation. The Ninth Circuit examined the legislative history of the law and determined that it was meant to protect both employees who internally complain of possible violations of law, as well as employees who file formal complaints with state and federal agencies (Brunozzi v. Cable Communications, Inc., 9th Cir, March 2017).
Tips for Employers: How to Respond To, and Avoid, Retaliation Claims
This case opens the door for Oregon employees to file retaliation claims after they have complained to management about potential violations of state or federal law. Until now, it was an open question whether internal complaints would be formally protected from retaliation, but this case squarely answers the question in favor of workers. Now more than ever, it’s important for employers to understand how to respond when an employee complains about workplace issues, such as wage and hour or compensation concerns, and what steps to take to avoid retaliation. For an overview, check out our Legal Guide “Retaliation Claims: How to Avoid Them”, and talk with your Vigilant employment attorney to discuss any specific situations.