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Whistleblowing protections

Any worker may report actions they believe violate local, state, or federal laws. Workers making these reports are commonly known as “whistleblowers."

These reports are protected, which means that it is illegal for employers to discharge, demote, suspend or in any manner discriminate or retaliate against a worker for making a good faith report of information the worker believes violates the law. 
It is illegal to discriminate or retaliate against a worker for these reports in promotion, compensation or other terms, conditions or privileges of employment. 

  • All Oregon employees are also protected for opposing unlawful employment practices. 
  • A report does not have to be substantiated for the whistleblower to be protected from retaliation. The worker must simply have a good faith belief when reporting a violation of law or unsafe working conditions. 
  • Employees have civil rights protections if they experience retaliation due to protected whistleblowing activity, including filing a complaint with BOLI or suing in circuit court. Judgments may include job reinstatement, back pay or monetary damages 
  • Public and certain non-profit employees in Oregon also have the right to report waste, fraud and abuse or other workplace violations without fear of retaliation.

If you think your employer is violating this law, you can make a complaint or contact us to get help.

The law

ORS 659A.199. ORS 659A.030(1)(f).

ORS 659A.200 to ORS 659A.224.

ORS 659A.203.

ORS 659A.885.

Frequently asked questions

For workers

Which workers are protected by this law?

All employees working in Oregon are protected. Members of a board of directors of a covered nonprofit organization also count as protected employees for purposes of the public-sector Whistleblower Law.

What are some examples of protected reports?

Workers 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 worker 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.

What counts as a report?

Reporting to any person, orally or in writing, any information you believe in good faith to be a violation of the law. The report does not have to be made directly to a supervisor for you to be protected under state whistleblowing laws.

What does this law protect you from?

You can’t be discriminated against or retaliated against for reporting violations if you have a good faith belief they are true. 

That means your employer can’t take any adverse employment action against you. It’s illegal for them to fire, demote, suspend, reduce your pay, remove employment privileges, or in any way discrimination or retaliate against you.

How are whistleblowing laws enforced in Oregon?

If you believe your employer has violated the law, you can file a complaint with BOLI or file a civil action. You could receive relief, including reinstatement, back pay and reasonable attorney fees.

For employers

Which types of employees are covered?

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.

What are some examples of reporting protected under state whistleblowing laws?

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.

How is “reporting” defined under the law?

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.

What are the prohibitions in this law?

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.

How are whistleblowing laws enforced in Oregon?

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: 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).

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.

Is there more information for non-profit and public employers to adhere with public employer whistleblower laws?

Yes, read more in this manual. Whistleblower Protections: Uniform Standards and Procedures Manual

Disclaimer: This website is not intended as legal advice. Any responses to specific questions are based on the facts as we understand them and the law that was current when the responses were written. They are not intended to apply to any other situations. This communication is not an agency order. If you need legal advice, please consult an attorney.​


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