Labor and Employment Law Overview: Oregon

Labor and Employment Law Overview requirements for other states

Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.

Author: XpertHR Editorial Team

Summary

  • State law prohibits employers from discriminating, harassing and retaliating against employees, but there are additional protections for employees in Oregon not offered by federal law. See EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations.
  • Oregon permits employers to consider certain criminal records and to test applicants for drug use or abuse, both of which are subject to limitations. See Recruiting and Hiring.
  • Oregon has extensive regulations pertaining to minimum wage, overtime, break requirements and child labor restrictions. See Wage and Hour.
  • Oregon has extensive regulations pertaining to health care continuation, pay statements and wage deductions. See Pay and Benefits.
  • Under Oregon law, employees are entitled to a number of leaves including parental leave, pregnancy disability leave, sick child leave, bereavement leave and serious health condition leave. Unlike federal law, domestic partners in Oregon may be eligible for leave as well, depending on several factors. See Attendance and Leave.
  • Oregon operates a state-specific and federally approved Occupational Health and Safety Plan. See Health and Safety.

Introduction to Employment Law in Oregon

Oregon is generally considered an employee-friendly state.

Select Oregon employment requirements are summarized below to help an employer understand the range of employment laws affecting the employer-employee relationship in the state. An employer must comply with both federal and state law.

An employer must also comply with applicable municipal law obligations affecting the employment relationship, in addition to complying with state and federal requirements.

EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations

Key Oregon requirements impacting EEO, diversity and employee relations are:

Oregon Equality Act

The Oregon Equality Act (OEA) applies to employers with one or more employees. The OEA adds several protected classes of employees to federal law, making state law more expansive than the protections afforded to employees by federal law. In addition to the federally protected classes (race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin, ancestry and disability), the OEA prohibits discrimination based on (but not limited to) the following factors:

  • Pregnancy;
  • Sexual orientation and gender identity;
  • Marital status;
  • The existence of expunged juvenile criminal records;
  • Lawful use of tobacco products during off-duty hours;
  • Providing testimony in a government proceeding;
  • Credit history;
  • Good faith reports of health or safety conditions or patient abuse; and
  • Victim of domestic violence or abuse.

Harassment is a form of illegal discrimination and is also prohibited under the OEA.

Employers with six or more employees in Oregon are subject to additional antidiscrimination regulations, prohibiting them from discriminating against employees on the basis of a workers' compensation claim history or participation, in addition to any physical or mental disabilities.

Equal Pay and the Paycheck Fairness Act

Employers with one or more employees in Oregon are prohibited from discriminating between the sexes in the payment of wages for work of comparable character, requiring comparable skills. Exceptions may be made based on a seniority or the existence of a merit system.

Oregon's Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA) prohibits discrimination (along with any other adverse employment actions) against an employee who has inquired about or disclosed his or her or another employee's wages or who has made a charge, filed a complaint or instituted an investigation, proceeding or hearing based on a wage disclosure.

The PFA does not protect employees who have access to wage information as part of their jobs and who disclose the information to any individual without authorized access unless the disclosure is in response to a charge or complaint or in conjunction with an investigation, proceeding or hearing, including internal investigations.

Whistleblower Protections

The Oregon whistleblower laws protect employees who report illegal activity by their employers. Other state laws also include protection from retaliation for engaging in certain activities, including (but not limited to):

  • Exposing a lack of required lunch breaks;
  • Reporting health care violations;
  • Opposing health or safety concerns;
  • Making a wage claim;
  • Testifying, in good faith, at an unemployment compensation hearing;
  • Testifying before a state legislative body, committee or task force;
  • Reporting drinking onsite; or
  • Reporting unfair trade practices or violations of consumer protection laws.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on EEO, diversity and employee relations practices in Oregon can be found in the Oregon Employee Handbook Table of Contents, EEO - Discrimination: Oregon, EEO - Harassment: Oregon, EEO - Retaliation: Oregon, Employee Discipline: Oregon, Oregon Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Oregon?. Federal requirements can be found in EEO - Discrimination: Federal, EEO - Harassment: Federal, EEO - Retaliation: Federal and Employee Discipline: Federal.

Recruiting and Hiring

Key Oregon requirements impacting recruiting and hiring are:

Criminal History

Employers that wish to perform criminal background checks of job applicants are required to comply with advance notice requirements. First, it must advise the applicant that the information will be collected as part of the job applicant process. Then, the employer must confirm for the Department of State Police that the applicant has consented to disclosure.

Oregon law prohibits the use of "expunged juvenile records" in making employment decisions.

Drug Testing

Oregon employers are permitted to test employees and job applicants for illegal drugs or alcohol on a suspicion or cause basis. Random testing for alcohol use, on the other hand, would exceed regulations without a valid business justification. There are many regulations that govern the manner in which testing must be performed and the means by which results of tests must be "confirmed" before any adverse employment actions are permissible.

Credit Checks

Oregon employers are generally prohibited from obtaining or using credit history information for employment purposes. Exceptions apply to employers in federally insured banks or credit unions, or where state or federal law requires the use of credit information for the purposes of a background check.

If an employer wishes to perform a credit check, it must be able to articulate "substantially job-related reasons" for the credit check. Those reasons may include hiring an employee that will have access to sensitive financial data or where insurance requirements dictate the need for credit checks of employees.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on recruiting and hiring practices in Oregon can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Oregon. Federal requirements can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Federal.

Wage and Hour

Key Oregon requirements impacting wages and hours are:

Minimum Wage

Oregon's minimum wage rate varies depending on where an employer is located. The minimum wage increases on July 1 of every year until 2023 according to a set schedule. Employers may not use tips as credit toward minimum wages owed to an employee.

Overtime

Oregon law requires that most nonexempt employees must be paid at least one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek. Different regulations exist for unionized employees, employees of medical facilities and public workers such as firefighters.

Rest Breaks

Employers must provide employees with a 10-minute rest period - during which the employee is relieved of all duties - for every four-hour work segment or major portion thereof. The rest periods must not be added to or deducted from the employee's regular work shift to change the overall number of hours worked.

Exceptions apply to employees in a retail or service establishment, employees who work fewer than five consecutive hours in a 16-hour period, employees who work alone and employees who are allowed to leave their work station to use the restroom facilities as needed.

Meal Breaks

Employers must provide employees who work more than a six-hour work period a 30-minute meal break during which the employee is relieved of all duties. Employees who work more than 14 hours during a single work period are entitled to a second 30-minute meal break. Employees who work between 22 and 24 hours during a single work period are entitled to a third 30-minute meal break. Meal breaks need not be paid breaks, unless the employee is not truly relieved of all duties during the meal break, in which case the meal break should be considered paid time.

Breastfeeding Breaks

An Oregon employer with 25 or more employees must provide "reasonable rest periods" to accommodate any employee who needs to express breast milk for her infant who is 18 months of age or younger. Reasonable rest periods consist of 30 minutes for each four-hour work period. Breaks should be taken toward the middle of work periods and, if possible, should be taken at the same time as any other required rest or meal periods provided by the employer.

Employers are not required to provide breastfeeding breaks if doing so would inflict an "undue hardship" on its business. The burden to establish a hardship is on the employer.

Child Labor

Child labor laws in Oregon restrict the occupations in which minors may be employed and the number of hours and times during which they may work.

Employees age 15 and younger may only work outside school hours, up to 18 hours per week when school is in session and up to 40 hours per week when school is not in session. Employees age 16 and 17 may generally work up to 44 hours per week. Special permits are available to employers if they need to have minor employees work beyond the aforementioned thresholds.

Employment of minors under the age of 14 is generally prohibited. Employers who wish to hire individuals under the age of 14 must collect a completed work permit. Employment of individuals ages 14 to 17 requires an employment certificate and proof of age.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on wage and hour practices in Oregon can be found in the Oregon Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Minimum Wage: Oregon, Overtime: Oregon, Hours Worked: Oregon, Child Labor: Oregon and Oregon Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters. Federal requirements can be found in Minimum Wage: Federal, Overtime: Federal, Hours Worked: Federal and Child Labor: Federal.

Pay and Benefits

Key Oregon requirements impacting pay and benefits are:

Health Care Continuation (COBRA)

Under Oregon's "mini-COBRA" law, group health policies issued to employers with fewer than 20 employees must offer continuation coverage to covered employees and their qualified beneficiaries upon a "qualifying event," like a voluntary or involuntary termination or loss of coverage due to hours worked, eligibility or loss of coverage.

Individuals electing continuation coverage must pay 100 percent of the full group premium, on a monthly basis, in advance. Continuation coverage will generally last up to nine months.

Wage Deductions

The two major categories of "involuntary" wage deductions in Oregon are child support payments and creditor garnishments. Employers that receive a child support withholding order against an employee's wages must begin withholding no later than the first pay period that occurs within five business days after the order is received. A child support withholding order has priority over other orders against the same wages, such as back taxes and bankruptcy. Up to 50 percent of the employee's disposable income may be withheld for child support.

Creditor garnishments may also reduce an employee's pay involuntarily, but with limitations on the amount to be withheld per pay period. Generally speaking, up to 75 percent of an employee's disposable earnings are considered exempt from creditor garnishment.

Oregon employers are prohibited from deducting from employee wages to cover the cost of uniforms, tools and equipment (including the cost of cleaning and maintenance), fees for medical examinations that are a condition of employment and employer financial shortages or "bad checks." Making illegal deductions from an employee's paycheck is considered a Class D violation, punishable by fines, court costs, attorney fees and potentially, civil penalties.

Wage Notice Requirements

Employers must provide an accurate, itemized, written pay statement with each payment of wages. The statement must include the following information:

  • Total gross pay;
  • Amount and description of any deductions from gross pay;
  • Total number of hours worked during the time covered;
  • Rate of pay;
  • If an employee is paid under multiple rates of pay, the statement must reflect the total number of hours worked under each rate of pay;
  • If the employee is paid on a "piece" rate, the statement must reflect the number of pieces the employee completed and the rate of pay per piece;
  • Net pay after deductions;
  • Employer's name, address and telephone number; and
  • The pay period for which the payment is made.

Final Paycheck

Employees who are terminated from employment or whose termination occurs by "mutual agreement" must be paid their final wages by the end of the first business day after the discharge or termination becomes "official." Employees who resign and provide at least 48 hours' notice of their termination must be paid immediately upon termination. Employees who quit and who do not provide 48 hours' notice must be paid their final wages by the earlier of five days after termination or the next regular payday.

Generally, employees must be compensated for accrued but unused vacation time at the final rate of pay, regardless of whether the termination was voluntary or involuntary.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on pay and benefits requirements can be found in Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Oregon, Involuntary and Voluntary Pay Deductions: Oregon, Payment of Wages: Oregon and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Oregon?. Federal requirements can be found in Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Federal, Involuntary and Voluntary Pay Deductions: Federal and Payment of Wages: Federal.

Attendance and Leave

Key Oregon requirements impacting attendance and leave are:

Oregon Family Leave Act

An employer in Oregon that employs 25 or more employees is covered by the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA). The OFLA requires employers to offer employees leave due to their own or a close family member's serious health condition in addition to sick child leave, parental leave for the birth or placement for foster care or adoption of a child, and pregnancy disability leave. Some of the key differences between the OFLA and the FMLA pertain to eligibility requirements, the definition of family members whose health conditions are covered and the qualifying reasons for leave.

Oregon Sick Time Law

Under Oregon's Sick Time Law (OSTL) eligible employees are entitled to accrue up to 40 hours of sick and safe time each year. However, whether the time is paid or unpaid depends on the size of the employer.

Other Leave Laws Affecting Oregon Employers

In addition to the state's family leave and sick time laws, an Oregon employer is also required to comply with several other leave laws, such as:

  • Jury duty;
  • Crime victim leave (covering employers with six or more employees);
  • Domestic violence, harassment, sexual assault or stalking leave (covering employers with six or more employees);
  • Military leave;
  • Veterans Day leave;
  • Bone Marrow Donor leave;
  • Religious observance leave;
  • Leave to serve in the state legislature;
  • Workers' compensation leave;
  • Search and rescue operation leave;
  • Volunteer emergency responder leave; and
  • Olympic games leave;

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on attendance and leave practices in Oregon can be found in the Oregon Employee Handbook Table of Contents, FMLA: Oregon, Jury Duty: Oregon, Other Leaves: Oregon, USERRA: Oregon, Oregon Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Oregon? Federal requirements can be found in FMLA: Federal, Jury Duty: Federal, Other Leaves: Federal and USERRA: Federal.

Health and Safety

Oregon operates its job safety and health programs covering the private sector under a state plan approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Under the Oregon Safe Employment Act (OSEA), the Oregon Safety and Health Administration (OR-OSHA) is authorized to enforce the state's workplace safety and health regulations. OR-OSHA has jurisdiction over most private sector employers, offers consultation services and administers the state's voluntary compliance programs like the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) and the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP).

Generally, state programs are required to be at least as effective as federal regulations, but more specifically, state programs may enhance federal rules or raise the overall standard of health and safety in the workplace. Oregon has more stringent rules compared to federal regulations covering things like bloodborne pathogens, personal protective equipment, reporting criteria and hazard communication (worker right-to-know) regulations.

Be aware that where there is an overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on health and safety requirements in Oregon can be found in HR and Workplace Safety: Oregon and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Oregon?. Federal requirements can be found in HR and Workplace Safety (OSHA Compliance): Federal.