Oregon is an ‘At Will’ employment state, which generally means that either an employee or an employer may terminate an employment relationship with or without cause at any time. There is an exception to ‘At Will’ employment if a contract of employment exists between an employee and an employer, which otherwise changes this “At Will” relationship. Clarifying whether or not an employee is “At Will” is therefore a very important distinction, which should be clearly communicated at the outset of any employment relationship.
If you are an employer, you should strongly consider documenting this relationship clearly in any advertisement for a job opening, in any formal employment offer, and by creating a comprehensive Employee Handbook to clarify this particular issue (and many others) and obtain your employee’s written acknowledgment regarding the same before they start work. You should also seek legal counsel to ensure your related documentation and any Employee Handbook are drafted appropriately. Ideally, your Employee Handbook should be reviewed at least annually by an attorney to ensure its compliance with any changes in applicable state or federal law. Legal compliance in employment law matters is complex and should be handled by an attorney familiar with these issues.
A good Oregon resource for general information regarding employment law matters can be accessed through Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) Technical Assistance for Employers service. You can get more information here: https://www.oregon.gov/boli/TA/pages/index.aspx BOLI also has a helpline for Employers, which is free and can be reached by calling: 971-673-0824.
If you are an employee, the same general considerations apply. You should educate yourself about your employer’s expectations and understandings before you accept any job offer. In doing so, please ensure you fully read and agree to any conditions of your employment that may be memorialized in your employer’s Employee Handbook before you say “Yes!”. You should also attempt to get a general understanding of what is required by your employer to maintain its legal compliance with its employees, so you understand your rights! You can also obtain good information at BOLI’s website here: https://www.oregon.gov/boli/WHD/pages/index.aspx
Clarity regarding these issues will help both parties get off to a positive and productive start to their working relationship. Especially when clarifying the ‘At Will’ employment relationship, employers and employees should work together and create a viable business and healthy work environment since those goals complement one another. However, disputes related to employment issues are common and litigation is not uncommon.
Therefore, whether you are hiring someone or looking to be hired, please get the assistance you need before your employment relationship begins.