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Elizabeth A. Semler
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Employment eAlert: Wage Claims Trigger Special Caution for Oregon Employers

February 2012

Elizabeth A. Semler
503.243.1661 x 264
The Department of Labor recently issued a Fact Sheet to remind employers that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prohibits retaliation against employees because they have "filed any complaint or instituted or caused to be instituted any proceeding under or related to" the FLSA. The FLSA's retaliation prohibition applies to formal complaints made to the Department of Labor and to written and oral complaints made by employees internally to their employer, as well as intra-company complaints. As long as the complaint is sufficiently clear and detailed for a reasonable employer to understand it as an assertion of rights protected by the statute, the complaint constitutes a protected activity. The DOL fact sheet can be found here: www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs77a.pdf

Oregon law also prohibits employers from discharging or discriminating against an employee because "the employee has made a wage claim or discussed, inquired about or consulted an attorney or agency about a wage claim." ORS 652.355. Case law interpreting this statute holds that a "wage claim" for purposes of a retaliation claim may consist of a written or oral complaint for unpaid wages.

Under federal or state law, employers should carefully consider employee complaints about wages, whether oral or written. Further, when considering whether to terminate or discipline an employee who has previously complained about unpaid wages or unfair pay practices, ensure the lawful reason for termination is clearly documented to avoid (or defend) a claim that the termination/discipline is retaliatory.

For more information on wage and hour laws, or if you have questions about other employment law issues, please feel free to contact us.


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