If you are an employee in Oregon, you will likely find comfort in knowing that there are state and federal laws in place that serve to protect your rights as a worker. The Department of Labor and such agencies as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission govern and supervise the various protections. Sadly, illegal employment practices continue to occur.
The Department of Labor governs approximately 180 employee protection laws, including workplace safety, fair hiring and promotions, parental leave, pay requirements, and more. Gaining knowledge about the fundamental employee rights might help you to make sure your boss does not violate your rights.
Federal employee protections
Although your specific problem at your workplace may be unique, it might involve one of the following federal employee protections:
- Discrimination: Work-related discrimination based on color, race, national origin, sex or religion is illegal. Furthermore, wage discrimination against minorities and women is unlawful, and discrimination against employees over the age of 40 or those with disabilities can cause problems for an employer.
- Minimum wage: The Fair Labor Standards Act has a minimum wage level in place that prevents employers from taking advantage of those desperate to earn an income. The act also prescribes the level of compensation for overtime, which is typically time-and-a-half for non-exempt workers. Protections related to wage levels and safety for minors is also in place.
- Unemployment benefits: Although Oregon state manages its unemployment benefits program, it must meet federal guidelines. If you meet the requirements of the state, and your unemployment resulted from situations that you could not control, you might qualify for benefits for a predetermined period. The circumstances could include dismissal, layoff or times of turmoil in the economy.
- Social Security: You and your employer will each contribute a specific percentage of your earnings, which may appear as "OASDI" on your pay stub. This Social Security is a payroll tax to provide a safety net at the time you retire or become disabled. Your contributions during your years of employment will see that you receive a check each month as a retiree.
- Health insurance: The Affordable Care Act aims to provide health insurance to full-time employees of medium and larger businesses. To qualify, your work hours must equal an average of at least 30 per week.
- Workplace safety: Legislation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration prescribes specific protection regulations for some industries and a general duty clause that makes the elimination of any clear risks to workers mandatory.
- Family and Medical Leave Act: FMLA entitles eligible workers to take unpaid leave for as long as 12 weeks in the event of a serious illness of a family member or the birth or adoption of a child. To be eligible for this, you will have to comply with requirements related to the time of employment with the company and the hours worked. The size and location of the company also play a role.
- Protection for whistleblowers: Different federal statutes will protect you if you report any illegal activities by your employer. Also, OSHA has a Whistleblower Protection Program that protects you from reprisal or retribution after reporting a safety violation.
If any of your employee rights are violated, you have the right to explore your options and gain the necessary information to allow a proper assessment of your situation and the available remedies. Although the federal protections affect most employees in Oregon, exceptions and exemptions may exist for self-employed workers or individuals who work on small family businesses such as farms.