The 2009 Legislature expanded protection for “whistleblowers,” employees who report illegal activity by their employers. For years, Oregon public employee whistleblower statutes prohibited public employers from taking action against or prohibiting employees from responding to legislative requests, disclosing information the employee believes is evidence of violation of laws, disclosing evidence of mismanagement, gross waste or abuse of authority, or reporting public endangerment resulting from an action by a public employer.
A public employee may report a violation of any federal or state law, rule, or regulation by the agency, mismanagement, gross misuse or waste of public resources or funds, abuse of authority in connection with the administration of a public program or the execution of a public contract, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety resulting from agency action without discrimination or retaliation by the employer under ORS 659A.203.
Q. Which types of employees are covered?
A. House Bill 3162, effective January 1, 2010, extends the protection provided to public sector employees to private employees when reporting violations of the law or health and safety dangers.
Q. What are some examples of violations or health and safety dangers that an employee would be protected for reporting?
A. For instance, employees employed by private firms can no longer be discharged for exposing a lack of required breaks or lunches, drinking onsite, or for reporting unfair trade practices and violations of consumer protection laws.
Q. What are the prohibitions in this law, and what penalties apply to employers for non-compliance?
A. It is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to discharge, demote, suspend or in any manner discriminate or retaliate against an employee with regard to promotion, compensation or other terms, conditions or privileges of employment for the reason that the employee has in good faith reported information that the employee believes is evidence of a violation of a state or federal law, rule or regulation.
Employees who believe the employer has violated the law are authorized to file a complaint with BOLI or file a civil action, and a court may order injunctive relief and other equitable relief, including reinstatement, back pay and reasonable attorney fees (ORS 659A.885).
Nothing on this website is intended as legal advice. Any responses to specific questions are based on the facts as we understand them, and not intended to apply to any other situations. This communication is not an agency order. If you need legal advice, please consult an attorney. We attempt to update the information on this website as soon as practicable following changes or developments in the laws and rules affecting Oregon employers, but we make no warranties or representations, express or implied, about whether the information provided is current. We urge you to check the applicable statutes and administrative rules yourself and to consult with legal counsel prior to taking action that may invoke employee rights or employer responsibilities or omitting to act when required by law to act.
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