Protections from Discrimination in the Workplace

Oregon law protects employees from being discriminated against at work.  Those protections prohibit employers from taking actions against employees or job applicants because of someone’s:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • National origin
  • Marital status
  • Age
  • Veteran status

If you have been denied a job, subjected to discipline, denied a promotion, or have been fired and your membership in one of those classifications was a “substantial factor” in the employer’s decision against you, you may have a claim of discrimination against your employer.  

What does it mean for the discriminatory intent to be a “substantial factor” in the employment decision against you?  Oregon courts have interpreted “substantial factor” to be a test of but-for causation.  That is, discrimination is a substantial factor in the adverse employment action if “in the absence of the discriminatory motive, the employee would have been treated differently.”  Hardie v. Legacy Health System, 167 Or App 425, 435, 6 P3d 531 (2000).

Successful discrimination claims carry with them a variety of penalties and damages against the discriminating employer.  Potential remedies include:

  • Back pay (defined as, “reimbursement by an employer for loss of wages during a period for which no services were performed and no payment was intended”);
  • Front pay (compensation for future lost wages and benefits that the employee reasonably expects to lose as a result of the employer’s discriminatory action);
  • Damages for loss of future earning capacity (i.e., compensation for reduced future earnings based, for example, on reputational injury caused by the employer’s unlawful employment action);
  • Compensatory damages (compensation for the harms that were a result of the unlawful action, including compensation for “emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life); and
  • Punitive damages (awarded to punish the defendant); and
  • Attorney fees and costs.

If you believe that you may have suffered unlawful discrimination at the hands of your employer, you should talk to an Oregon employment attorney to determine whether you have a strong case to recover damages.  Attorneys at Klein Munsinger are available to discuss the potential merits of any case.