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Right to Work
Is Oregon a Right to Work State? 6 Questions, Answered
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AnnaMarie Houlis
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Journalist & travel blogger
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Here's everything you need to know about the right-to-work law, at-will employment and these mean in Oregon.

What is right to work?

The right-to-work law, which is also known as the Workplace Freedom or Workplace Choice law, is a law that grants workers the right to choose whether or not they'd like to join a union in their workplace. Likewise, it also makes it optional for workers already in unionized workplaces to pay union dues and other membership fees that are required for union representation (whether they're involved in the union or not).

What is at-will employment?

Every state with the exception of Montana is an at-will employment state. Under the at-will employment policy, either the employer or the employee can terminate employment at any time for any reason (unless it's illegal and proven wrongful termination, which is hard to do) without consequence — unless the employee has a contract or a union agreement that states otherwise.

Is Oregon a right to work state?

Oregon is not a right-to-work state. That said, there was a recent landmark United States Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, which found that "forcing public employees to fund a labor union as a condition of government employment violates the First Amendment," according to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

"Janus, which was briefed and argued at the Supreme Court by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, ruled that unless public sector workers affirmatively consent to paying union dues or fees and knowingly waive their First Amendment right not to subsidize a labor union, collection violates their constitutional rights," according to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

So, before the landmark Janus ruling, government workers in Oregon were forced to pay “agency fees” even if they rejected union membership. In September 2018,  a group of public employees in Oregon filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the state’s three largest public-sector unions, as well as a smaller union and their affiliates. The suit sought the return of the millions of dollars that these public employees (among the thousands of other public sector employees) were forced to pay in union fees in recent years. And, by July, the National Right to Work Foundation's attorneys had gotten the first refund for Oregon state employee Debora Nearman.

Can you be fired for any reason in Oregon?

Oregon is an at-will state, which means that you can be fired for any just reason at any time. Proving wrongful termination isn't always an easy feat, but your employer can only fire you for legal reasons.

What are important Oregon labor laws?

Here are three important labor laws in Oregon of which you should be aware.

1. Overtime

Oregon labor laws do indeed require employers to pay their employees for overtime hours, unless otherwise exempt. This pay is at the rate of one and a half times the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked beyond the standard 40 hours in a workweek.

2. Meal Periods

"Oregon labor laws require employers to provide employees with at least one 30-minute unpaid and uninterrupted meal period when the work period is six hours or greater," according to the Employment Law Handbook. "If employers require employees to work at any time during meal periods, they must pay the employees for the entire 30-minute periods. Employers must provide meal periods to employees based on the number of hours they work as follows:  zero to six hours (no meal periods), six to 14 hours (one meal period), 14 to 22 hours (two meal periods) and 22 to 24 hours (three meal periods)."

If employees work seven hours or less, it's required that the meal period begins no earlier than the conclusion of the second hour worked. It also must end no later than the commencement of the fifth hour of work. And if employees work more than seven hours, it's required that the first meal period must begin no earlier than the conclusion of the third hour worked, and it must end no later than the commencement of the sixth hour of work.

3. Paid Sick Leave

All Oregon-based employers with 10 or more employees (and at least six employees for employers located in Portland) are required to provide up to 40 hours of paid leave per year. Meanwhile, Oregon-based mployers with less than 10 employees (less than six for employers located in Portland) must provide up to 40 hours of unpaid protected sick time.

What are some resources for Oregon employees?

To learn more about employment laws in Oregon, check out these resources:

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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