Representing the Employee:

in the Oregon labor market

We know what you're up against, and are dedicated to providing quality legal assistance to people who have claims against their past or present employer.


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Wage & Hour Law in Oregon:


The folowing information is more detailed than the Home page, and may be of use by some readers for understanding the basic issues and their legal context.   It is an overview and by no means complete, and is not legal advice regarding any particular situation or fact pattern.   The law office has a great deal of experience in maximizing return on claim value, while dealing with difficult employers.   Once you determine you may have a claim, we encourage you to contact us for assistance with it.   Our ability to maximize return on claim value generally means you will receive more money even after our fee is paid.



Overview:


If you have unpaid wages in the State of Oregon that are due, whether hourly pay, salary, commissions, vacation pay, wrongful withholdings or deductions from your pay, we may be able to help you get all your wages.  In most minimum wage, overtime, and employment termination cases, penalty wages can be obtained in addition to your earned wages when your employer fails to pay you all wages earned and owed when due.


  • Because Oregon Wage and Hour law has favorable provisions allowing for the award of attorney fees in addition to overdue wages, the law office is able to defer its fees in most cases, giving workers full and fair access to the courts by allowing them to pay the attorney fee out of the proceeds of the case or as a seperate attorney fee award against the employer.

  • Provisions in Oregon law for penalty wages and attorney fees mean that, in principle, no wage claim is too small; you should not feel reluctant to submit a claim for review because the amount of overdue wages is small.

  • If you believe you may have a wage claim against your present or past employer and would like to have your claim reviewed, please fill out and submit the Wage Claim Form. A lawyer experienced in wage and hour claims will evaluate your claim and you will be contacted by The Law Office in a few days.

  • If The Law Office is able to help you with your claim, you will be provided with a retainer agreement that sets out the terms under which we will assist in your claim, and for you to sign and return to The Law Office.

  • It is your responsibility to provide accurate information with which to contact you. If The Law Office is unable to help you with your claim, we will make a reasonable effort to inform you of this, but in no event will there be an attorney-client relationship until such time as a retainer agreement is signed by both you and an attorney for The Law Office. If you do not hear from us within a reasonable time it could mean that you provided inaccurate contact information, or it could mean that we are unable to help you with your claim and case volume precludes us providing additional information.

  • The Law Office of Howard J. Grooters is located in the State of Oregon in the USA.   At this time licensing in the practice of law limits The Law Office to claims arising under state and federal law in the State of Oregon.   Time permitting, we may be able to assist with referrals to lawyers who handle claims in other states if you submit information that clearly indicates in what state your claim arises.

  • Review of your claim by The Law Office can only be as reliable as the information you provide. Information submitted through this web-site will not be verified as part of the initial review.

  • You may provide as much or as little information as you wish. Limiting the information you provide will limit our ability to evaluate your claim. All information submitted will be kept strictly confidential.



Minimum Wage in Oregon


According to Oregon Law, you must earn and be paid no less than minimum wage for all hours worked in Oregon. Tips are NOT counted in this.


As of July 1, 2016, the Minimum Wage in Oregon went to a multi-tiered system, split into three areas:   The Portland metropolitan area within the urban growth boundary (UGB); "Standard" counties (including the tri-county area outside the Portland UGB); and "Non-urban" counties.


* Both Portland and Standard counties presently have a minimum wage rate of $9.75 per hour;
* Non-urban counties presently have a minimum wage rate of $9.50 per hour.


On July 1, 2017, the hourly minimum wage increases to $11.25 within the Portland UGB; $10.25 in Standard counties; and $10.00 in Non-urban counties.


The law office can quickly determine which zone a given employer is in and which rate applies.


The Minimum Wage previously was uniform throughout Oregon, at $9.25 from January 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016, $9.10 during 2014, $8.95 in 2013, $8.80 in 2012, and $8.50 in 2011.  Unpaid minimum wages can be recovered up to 6 years back.


  • Tips are not included in determining whether the employer is paying the minimum wage;

  • Certain deductions cannot be taken out of your pay if they take your pay below the minimum wage rate;

  • There is no sub-minimum rate while you are in training or not yet 18 years old;

  • There are very few exceptions, but some employees are excluded from the minimum wage law; if your employer claims you are excluded from the minimum wage, you should verify this with a wage lawyer.

If your employer failed to pay at least the minimum wage, you may have a claim for penalty wages in addition to the difference between the minimum wage and the amount your employer paid.



Overtime


According to both Oregon and Federal Law:

You must be paid at least 1 1/2 times your regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 hours in any work week unless you fall within an exemption. Many salaried employees are exempt, but not all.  The tests for exemption have specific requirements: many misclassifications occur; if there is any question, you should consult an experienced employment lawyer as you may still be entitled to time and a half for all hours worked over 40 in a work week.



Prevailing Wages


According to both Oregon and Federal Law:

You must be paid at least the published prevailing wage rate for work performed on most public works projects.  Covered projects are those that:


  • Cost more than $50,000;

  • Are for construction, reconstruction, renovation, and painting; and

  • Directly or indirectly use funds of a public agency.

Certain public/private projects are also covered under the prevailing wage laws.



Penalty Wages


OVERTIME PENALTIES:  In addition to your earned overtime pay, if you have a claim for unpaid overtime based on federal law, you may receive a penalty equal to the amount of the unpaid overtime plus costs and attorney fees.  If your claim is made based on Oregon State law, you may receive additional penalty wages of up to 30 eight-hour days at your overtime rate of pay, plus costs and attorney fees.


MINIMUM WAGE PENALTIES:  In addition to your minimum earned pay, if you have a claim for unpaid minimum wages based on federal law, you may receive a matching amount of the unpaid minimum wages.  If your claim is made based on Oregon State law, you may receive additional penalty wages of up to 30 eight-hour days, plus costs and attorney fees.


FINAL PAY PENALTIES:  In addition to your earned wages, if your employer failed to pay your final wages upon termination of your employment within the time required by law you may receive additional penalty wages of up to 30 eight-hour days, plus costs and attorney fees.


  • Even if your employer eventually paid you all your final pay, if your pay was late under Oregon law you may still be eligible for penalty wages for the number of days your pay was late, up to a maximum of 30 days, at eight hours per day at your final rate of pay.

WRONGFUL DEDUCTION PENALTIES:  If you have a claim for wrongful deductions from wages, you are entitled to the amount wrongfully withheld from your paycheck or $200, wichever is greater.  In addition to this amount, if the wages wrongfully deducted remained outstanding upon termination of your employment, you may also receive final pay penalty wages of up to 30 eight-hour days, plus costs and attorney fees.



Commissions


Pay based on a Commission schedule is just an alternative form of calculating an employee's compensation.  In general, the wage and hour laws apply equally to commission based pay as to hourly pay.

Commissions can fluctuate from pay period to pay period, but your commissions (total pay, if you are paid commissions in addition to other pay) must still be at least equal to the minimum wage for each work week.  You also must still be paid overtime for work weeks with more than 40 hours worked.


  • The overtime rate for each work week may fluctuate, and is determined by calculating the regular rate for each week by dividing your earnings by the number of hours you worked that week.  The regular rate calculated for each week must be at least the minimum wage.

  • Commissions may be structured by an employer so that they are deferred, or not earned, until a sale is final, but you must still be paid at least the minimum wage in the meantime.  Once the commission is earned and due, it must be applied to the work week in which the work was performed for the calculation of the regular and overtime rates.  Once earned and due, the commission, and any overtime due, must be paid.

There are some exemptions from the minimum wage and overtime requirements for commissioned workers:


  • Outside salespeople - those engaged in sales away from the employer's business location - are exempt from both minimum wage and overtime, but there are specific requirements for an employer to qualify you as exempt.  If you work for commissions on outside sales and are not being paid at least the minimum wage or overtime, you should talk to an employment lawyer to confirm whether or not your position is, in fact, exempt from these pay provisions.

  • Commissioned employees at vehicle dealerships and other retail and service businesses can be exempt from overtime, but the minimum wage rules still apply and you must receive at least the minimum wage.   There are specific requirements for these overtime exemptions as well, and even if you are receiving at least minimum wage, if you are in one of these positions and are not paid overtime for work over 40 hours in a work week, you should talk to an employment lawyer to confirm whether or not your position is, in fact, exempt from overtime.

  • If your employer is not subject to federal law (most are subject to both federal and state law), then Oregon law does not include commissions in the calculation of the overtime rate, meaning that if you are paid only commissions, so long as the minimum wage applies, the effective overtime rate is 1 1/2 times the minimum wage rate.  Determining whether your employer is subject to federal law is something that should be done in consultation with an employment lawyer.

Commission based pay can be complex, and presents a multitude of possible scenarios under both Oregon and federal law. Because of this it is not practical to provide a comprehensive set of examples in this space.   If you are paid by commission and any of the following apply to you, you should discuss your situation with an employment lawyer:


  • You are not receiving at least the minimum wage;

  • You are not being paid overtime for hours worked over 40 in a work week; or

  • You are unsure if your commission payments equal the amount agreed to in your commission agreement with your employer.

Use the Wage Claim Form to present your situation for review by the law office.



Wage Payment Rules, or Are My Wages Overdue?


According to Oregon Law, If You...


  • Are fired, your wages MUST be paid the next business day.

  • Quit without 48 hours prior notice, your wages are due within 5 business days, or the next regular pay day (whichever comes first).

  • Quit after giving more than 48 hours notice, your wages are due on your final day of employment.

  • Are still employed, your wages are due on the day your employer must establish as its regular payday for all employees, no more than 35 days from the first day of work in the pay period.

If your employer failed to pay you your final pay upon termination of your employment within the time required by law, you may have a claim for penalty wages in addition to your earned wages.


Use the Wage Claim Form to have your claim reviewed by the law office.



Deductions From Wages


Employers must make certain deductions from wages that are authorized by law or collective bargaining agreement, for federal and state tax withholding, for example, and social security and medicare, also known as FICA.  Certain other deductions can also be made that are not required.  Generally, according to Oregon law, you must give written authorization before your employer can make any of these other deductions from your wages, and the deduction must be for your benefit, or authorized by you for payment to a third party.  In most situations, an employer may not make deductions where the employer itself is the recipient of the wages withheld.


  • Oregon law provides a $200 penalty or actual damages for a wrongful deduction from your wages.

  • Employers MAY NOT make deductions from your earnings for the cost of breakages or losses.

  • An itemized statement of deductions made from your wages must be furnished to you on each regular payday at the time wages are paid. The statement must show the amount and purpose of each deduction.

The Law Office can help you determine if a deduction made from your paycheck was unlawful.  Use the Wage Claim Form to describe the circumstances of the deduction, including how it appears on the statement of deductions, and what you know about where the money went and the purpose to which it was applied.



Unemployment Benefits


When you find yourself out of work, you should apply for unemployment compensation benefits immediately, and without regard for whether or not you think you are eligible.  As long as you provide truthful information to the Employment Department, the worst that can happen is that payment of benefits may be denied. Additionally, other resources there may help you find new work.


If you are denied payment of benefits and you believe you should be eligible - or if you are unsure whether you should be eligible - you should discuss your situation with an employment lawyer, who can help you decide whether to request a hearing.


Time is of the essence where unemployment benefit decisions are concerned, and you will lose your right to a hearing if you wait too long to request one.  The document you receive from the Employment Department containing the benefits decision tells you how long you have to request a hearing, and how to request one.  The time is calculated from the decision date shown on the document - not the date you receive it.  If you wait too long to request a hearing, it is extremely unlikely a late request will be granted, so you should treat it as a firm deadline.


If the deadline for you to request a hearing is approaching and you are contacting The Law Office through the web-form at right, you should go ahead and request the hearing, without waiting for a response from us first, and let us know you have made the request.


The public policy behind publicly funded unemployment compensation benefits is that it is in society's best interest to provide temporary assistance to workers who become temporarily unemployed through no fault of their own.  Among the most common reasons for a denial of benefits are that the employee voluntarily quit employment or that the employee was fired for misconduct.  In either case, the employee is felt to be responsible for the loss of employment.


  • You may still be eligible for benefits, even if you quit, if you quit with good cause.   Good cause may exist where the employer acts unlawfully in dealing with the employee (fails to pay minimum wage, for example), participates or tolerates circumstances that create a legal cause of action with the employee (sexual harassment at the workplace, for example), or acts unconscionably toward the employee (creates a hostile work environment, for example), or provides a work environment (such as providing dangerously defective machinery, for example) such that no reasonable person would continue to work under those circumstances.  In such circumstances, to be eligible for benefits it may be necessary, depending on the specific facts, for you to have addressed the issue with the employer and given the employer a reasonable opportunity to remedy the situation before quitting.

  • You may still be eligible for benefits under certain circumstances even if you were fired for misconduct.  Demonstrating that the alleged misconduct did not, in fact, occur, and that the employer was mistaken, can be a basis for allowing benefits.  Even if the alleged misconduct occurred, demonstrating that the conduct did not constitute a criminal act and that the incident qualifies as an isolated incident (you have no other history of misconduct) can be a basis for allowing benefits.

The Law Office may be able to help reverse a denial of benefits where the specific facts support benefit eligibility.  We can evaluate your claim if you provide the relevant facts concerning the termination of your employment.



Attorney Fees


Clients always have the option of paying hourly fees for legal services on a pay-for-attorney-time basis.  Alternatively, it is often possible to defer payment of attorney fees at the client's option in exchange for a contingent interest in the claim.  In these cases, the attorney fee is paid out of the money that is recovered for the client, which means that there is no fee unless and until there is a recovery of money.  This minimizes the risk to the client, which is shared by The Law Office .  For this reason, the contingent agreement gives the attorney a minimum percentage interest in the claim, usually a one-third interest that becomes a two-fifths interest if a formal hearing or trial is needed to resolve the case.


Usually, because of penalties that accrue, in wage claims the client still receives all of the earned wages that went unpaid, plus a portion of the penalty wages, and the attorney fee is fully covered by the penalties.  When a case does not voluntarily settle, but is decided by the court or arbitrator, an award in favor of the client will result in a judgment containing a specific attorney fee award as a part of the total award granted.  In these cases, the attorney fee awarded may exceed the minimum percentage interest.  Since the attorney fee award is in addition to the underlying wage claim, the client may then collect the full value of the underlying claim that is awarded in the judgment.


IMPORTANT:


Not all cases can be pursued on a contingency, nor are we always able to defer our fee or expenses.  Consultation on your claim will determine whether we can handle your claim, and on what terms.  This discussion is for informational purposes only, and not for the purpose of setting a fee for handling a claim.  Please see the discussion on handling your case for information on how and when, and under what terms, an attorney-client relationship may be formed.



Handling A Case


Before The Law Office can agree to handle a case, the claims that make up the case must be evaluated for their strength under the employment laws.  That can occur through review of information submitted through the form on this web-site and in follow-up to such submissions, as well as through telephone and in-person consultations.  An offer to handle your case can only come after such review and consultation regarding your claims.


If The Law Office agrees to handle your case, an attorney-client relationship is created with the signing of a document called a "retainer agreement," which sets out the specific terms of the legal representation.  The specific details of your case will be discussed with you, and the value of your claim determined to an exact number if possible.  To assist in determining the full value of your claim, you should provide all of the documents you have in your possession that are related in any way to the employer whom your claim is against:  This includes pay stubs, employee handbooks, policy manuals, employee reviews, disciplinary reports or warnings, forms or agreements and other documents related to your employment, unemployment claim documents, and many other document types as well.


You should not try to decide which documents are important and which are not, or withhold any document you think might be detrimental to your case.  The Law Office will review all your documentation and determine which documents are important to your case.  Also, it is better for The Law Office to be aware of a problem document early on, rather than later during the course of litigation when that document is provided as evidence by the employer and a hearing may be looming.


Most wage claims are subject to mandatory arbitration, which proceeds more quickly than the trial process in the courts, though it can still take four to six months, or more.  This means an independant arbitrator will decide the case at an informal hearing if a settlement is not reached.  This arbitration is not binding, however, and either side can appeal the arbitration decision to the court through the regular jury trial process.

Most cases do settle well in advance of any scheduled hearing, though it is not possible to know for cetain which cases will go to a hearing.   All clients must understand that they may be called upon to appear and give sworn testimony at a hearing or trial in their case.







How We Do It:

Here at The Law Office, we Consult, Negotiate, Litigate, and Collect the Wages You've Earned and Have Coming to You.

In most wage-claim cases we are able to work for you on a deferred, contingent fee basis, meaning that in your time of need you get access to the justice system without having to find cash to pay your lawyer up-front.  Not only that, but if we don't get you paid, we don't get paid either. Penalties and attorney fee awards also mean that all your wages usually go in your pocket, while our fee gets paid by the other side.

Think of The Law Office as your partner in getting you what you've earned and deserve.

Do You Have a Claim?  Tell Us:

This information is not a do-it-yourself guide to resolving employment disputes or handling employment litigation. While some readers may find the information useful for understanding the basic issues and their legal context, it is NOT a substitute for experienced legal counsel and is not legal advice. Reading this information does not form an attorney-client relationship. Please contact the professionals at The Law Office of Howard J. Grooters to discuss your specific case. Call (541) 338-4144 or use the wage claim form.

 © Copyright 2017, Law Office of Howard J. Grooters