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Ruling expands Oregon whistleblower law

April 6, 2017

Barran Liebman
Oregon Law Firm

On March 21, 2017, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that Oregon’s whistleblower statute protects private employees from retaliation for internal reports of possible violations of law.  This is the first case to hold that internal verbal complaints by an employee are a protected activity under the statute.

In Brunozzi v. Cable Communications, Inc., a cable installation technician verbally complained to his immediate supervisors on several occasions that the company’s overtime formula, which was calculated using piece-rate wages, did not compensate him properly.  His final complaint was made two days before he was terminated.  The technician sued the company for violating federal and state overtime laws and for unlawful retaliation under ORS 659A.199 based on his internal complaints.  ORS 659A.199, enacted in 2009, prohibits a private employer from retaliating against an employee who has, in good faith, “reported information that the employee believes is evidence of a violation of state or federal law.”

In an issue of first impression, the Ninth Circuit considered whether the statute protects internal reports to supervisors as well as external reports to authorities.  Noting that the language of the statute is broad and places no limit on the individual to whom the employee’s information must be reported, the court held that the Oregon legislature intended to provide whistleblower protections for good faith reports of violations of law to either an external or internal authority.

In light of this decision, employers should be extremely cautious when disciplining employees who have lodged qualifying internal complaints or reports.

 


Electronic Alerts are written by Barran Liebman attorneys for their clients and friends. Alerts are not intended as legal advice, but as employment law, labor law, and employee benefits announcements. If this has been forwarded to you, and you would like to begin receiving Electronic Alerts directly, please email or call Traci Ray at 503-276-2115. Copyright ©2017 by Barran Liebman LLP.

 

  
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