Text Size:   A+ A- A   •   Text Only
Find     
Site Image

Whistleblowing
An employee who works for a public or private employer may report what their employer did that they believe violates the law. The applicable statutes do not specifically refer to the employee’s action as “whistleblowing,” but the act of reporting is commonly referred to as “whistleblowing” and the “whistleblower” may be protected from adverse employment actions.
 
Under Oregon law it is an unlawful 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. ORS 659A.199. All Oregon employees are also protected for opposing unlawful employment practices. ORS 659A.030(1)(f).
 
In Oregon there is also a “Whistleblower Law” specific to public-sector employment.
ORS 659A.200 to ORS 659A.224.
 
The public-sector Whistleblower Law protects  an employee of a public employer  (or a non-profit employer that receives public funds by way of grant or contract and is exempt from income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code) from discrimination or retaliation by their employer when they disclose any information that the employee reasonably believes is evidence of 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 the public employer’s action. ORS 659A.203.

Q. Which types of employees are covered?
 
A. All employees working in Oregon are covered under ORS 659A.030 and ORS 659A.199. Members of a board of directors of a covered nonprofit organization are also covered employees for purposes of the public-sector Whistleblower Law. ORS 659A.200.
 
Q. What are some examples of reporting protected under state whistleblowing laws?
 
A. Employees may not be discharged
or treated differently for reporting activities they believe in good faith to be a violation of state or federal law, rule or regulation, including reporting allegations of sexual harassment, failures to provide required breaks or lunches, driving under the influence, or for reporting unfair trade practices and violations of consumer protection laws. It is important to note that the employee does not need to be correct in their reporting – they simply need to have a good faith belief that what they are reporting is unlawful.

Q. How is “reporting” defined under the law?
 
A. Reporting to any person, orally or in writing, any information the employee believes in good faith to be a violation of the law. The report does not have to be made directly to a supervisor for an employee to be protected under state whistleblowing laws.
 
Q. What are the prohibitions in this law?
 
A. It is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to take any adverse employment action against an employee for making a good faith report of a violation of state or federal law, rule or regulation. Adverse employment action includes, but is not limited to, discharge, demotion, suspension or in any manner discrimination or retaliation against an employee with regard to promotion, compensation or other terms, conditions or privileges of employment.
 
Q. How are whistleblowing laws enforced in Oregon?
 
A. 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.
 
Note:
 
  1. Under the Oregon Safe Employment Act, it is an unlawful employment practice for any person to bar or discharge from employment or otherwise discriminate against any employee or prospective employee because the employee or prospective employee has made any complaint to the employer, federal OSHA, or Oregon OSHA of any violation of law, regulation or standard pertaining to safety and health in the place of employment. The complaining party is generically referred to as a “whistleblower.” ORS 654.062(5).
 
  1. Under the federal anti-discrimination statutes in employment, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the Oregon counterparts have provisions that prohibit a covered employer from retaliating against an employee for complaining about alleged discriminatory employment practices. The complaining individual is sometimes referred to as a “whistleblower.” The U.S. Supreme Court in Thompson v. North American Stainless, LP, 562 U.S. 170 (2011), found that a complaining party’s family member or friend who falls within the “zone of interests” is also protected from the retaliation based on the whistleblowing activities. In this case, Thompson and Thompson’s fiancée at the time were both employees of North American Stainless, LP. Thompson’s fiancée filed a sex discrimination complaint against the employer with the EEOC. The employer fired Thompson but not his fiancée who actually filed the charge. An “aggrieved person” is interpreted broadly in an EEOC whistleblowing case.
 
Updated April 2018
 
 
 

 

DISCLAIMER 
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.
 
TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE FOR EMPLOYERS
800 NE OREGON STREET, STE 1045
PORTLAND, OR  97232
971-673-0824
 
 
THIS INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE IN AN ALTERNATE FORMAT