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How to File a Complaint

Graphic showing steps 1, 2, 3 of the complaint process. The same information is in the body of the page.

The following information is a guide on how to proceed if you feel you have been treated unfairly, find yourself in a disagreement or have a question that needs answering by state and/or local government.

How the Small Business Advocates Can Help You

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Try to resolve it at the agency/unit of government. Take notes, make copies, get names/phone numbers/emails.

Follow these best practice recommendations for more positive results:

  • Be pleasant and decent. Treat workers with respect and courtesy, even if you’re frustrated.
  • Be patient. Research takes time and workers must juggle many tasks and time demands.
  • Be persistent. Give workers a reasonable amount of time and then check back.
  • Prepare. Gather data and material ahead of time to explain and exhibit your situation logically.
  • Outline or summarize your main points
  • Read what agencies send you and be mindful of directions and deadlines. If you don’t understand notices or correspondence you receive, ask questions first of the agency that sent it.
  • Ask to escalate your concern/question if frontline workers do not understand your question or concern.
  • If your calls do not yield results, consider filing a written complaint directly with the agency. Be sure to explain yourself. Be professional and courteous. Cite exhibits when possible. A written complaint allows for a thoughtful, reasoned approach and gives you the benefit of providing supportive evidence.
  • When appeal rights are offered, consider them carefully. Note that the Small Business Advocates are unable to assist you with a contested case hearing.
  • Always save a copy of correspondence and relevant records. It’s a good idea to save a copy of anything you send to any government entity.

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Check Jurisdiction

Check that your dispute is something we can help with.

We CAN consider:

  • Inquiries and complaints regarding the administrative acts of most state agencies, provided you are not in a contested case process and have not initiated legal action.
  • Inquiries regarding the administrative acts of most units of local government, provided you are not in a contested case process and have not initiated legal action.
  • Questions about starting, expending or winding up the operations of a business in Oregon.

We CANNOT examine:

  • Federal agencies (though we’ll be happy to refer you to resources).
  • The judicial branch (including attorneys, judges and other court officials)
  • Elected officials at any level of government
  • Homeowner Associations
  • Private parties, whether individual citizens, private nonprofits or for-profit entities.
  • Long-term care facilities (please contact the Long-Term Care Ombudsman)

Other Limitations

When we would otherwise have jurisdiction, we do not review complaints in the following situations:

  • We cannot take complaints from third party persons. This means your CPA and your bookkeeper cannot file a complaint on your behalf. We can only work with a business owner/principal or nonprofit executive directors or board members or their designee.
  • If you are using an alternative remedy.
  • When you delay filing the complaint too long to justify review and investigation.
  • When you do not have sufficient interest in or are not personally aggrieved by the matter of the complaint.
  • If the complaint is trivial, frivolous, vexatious or not made in good faith.
  • When the resources of our team are not sufficient for adequate review and investigation of your complaint.
  • When the complaint is the subject of pending litigation or a pending contested case proceeding under ORS 183.

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Contact Us

File an inquiry or complaint with a Small Business Advocate.

Please contact our office and describe your problem. We prefer that you use our electronic complaint form, but it is not required.

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