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Wrongful Termination

Like most states, Oregon follows the doctrine of “at will” employment.  Employment discrimination laws, wrongful termination and retaliation are exceptions to “at will” employment. For instance, employers cannot discriminate based upon age, disability, gender/sex, national origin/ethnicity, pregnancy, family medical leave, race or religion.

As noted on the main discrimination section, wrongful termination can be a kind of discrimination or retaliation. When it comes to retaliation claims, the most common form of retaliation is wrongful termination. Because some laws like the FMLA are filed directly in federal court, retaliation and wrongful termination claims brought under those laws are not filed with the EEOC.  Retaliation and retaliatory wrongful termination are forms of discrimination. Therefore they are subject to very similar rules and similar forms of proof: direct and indirect evidence.

The only difference is that in the first step of the indirect method, the employee needs to show three things:

  • A basis for the termination or retaliation, that is that the employee took some protected action such as reporting unlawful behavior;
  • An adverse act such as wrongful termination; and
  • Some causal connection which might be something as simple as the fact that the wrongful termination happened right after the company became aware of the complaint. Again, the unlawful motive does not need to be the only motive for retaliation, it need be just a motivating factor.

Wrongful termination can result in a great deal of emotional distress, both from the wrongful termination itself and from the fact that someone is out of work.

  • Anti-Retaliation LawsSome kinds of claims do not require an employment lawyer. For example, someone who handles worker’s compensation claims is probably not an employment lawyer. But a wrongful termination in retaliation for filing a worker’s compensation claim is a case for an employment lawyer. Therefore, anytime you have made any claim against your employer and faced retaliation or wrongful termination as a result, you should consult an employment lawyer.
  • To avoid retaliation and wrongful terminationIf you feel you have been subjected to discrimination and are afraid to pursue your case for fear of retaliation or wrongful termination or if you are afraid that you may suffer or have already suffered retaliation, you need an employment lawyer to advise you on your best course of action. Just because you speak to a lawyer, does not mean that you must file a case. And since that consultation is entirely confidential, if you decide not to pursue a case no one needs to know that you spoke to an employment lawyer at all. No matter what kind of employment case you have, the fear of retaliation (even if a wrongful termination is unlikely) has a tendency to hover in your mind. The fact is that everyone is afraid of wrongful termination.

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