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Filing a Discrimination Claim – Oregon

1. What kinds of discrimination are against state law in Oregon?

Oregon law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex (includes gender, pregnancy and sexual harassment), religion, age (18 or older), marital status, physical/mental disability, injury, and family relationship. The Oregon law also makes genetic discrimination illegal, preventing an employer from requiring or considering the results of genetic screening or brain wave tests.

The Oregon antidiscrimination law also makes other kinds of employer conduct illegal, such as discrimination on the basis of testifying before the Legislature, giving or using breathalyzer tests. polygraph examinations, and psychological stress tests (with certain exceptions), whistleblowing, and blacklisting. Employers are required to allow employees to attend criminal proceedings when the employee is a crime victim. Employees who leave one place of employment to go to work for a new employer due to the latter’s false, deceptive, or misleading advertising or other statements have a civil remedy against the new employer.

2. How do I file a discrimination claim in Oregon?

A discrimination claim can be filed either with the state administrative agency, the Civil Rights Division of Oregon’s Bureau of Labor & Industries (BOLI), or the federal administrative agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The two agencies have what is called a work-sharing agreement, which means that the agencies cooperate with each other to process claims. Filing a claim with both agencies is unnecessary, as long as you indicate to one of the agencies that you want it to cross-file the claim with the other agency.

The Oregon anti-discrimination statute covers employers of any size (except for discrimination claims based on physical/mental disability or injury, for which the employer must have 6 or more employees). Therefore, if your workplace has between 1 and 14 employees, you should file with the BOLI, as the EEOC enforces federal law, which covers only employers with 15 or more employees. Filing with the BOLI is not required to pursue a discrimination claim directly in court, but if you do not have an attorney, you may wish to see whether BOLI can assist you in resolving your claim without filing in court. BOLI complaints must be filed within 180 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against.

To file a claim with the BOLI, contact the nearest office below. More information about filing a claim with the BOLI can be found at http://www.oregon.gov/BOLI/CRD/C_Crcompl.shtml.

Portland Office
800 NE Oregon Street #1045
Suite 1070
Portland, OR 97232
Phone: (503) 731-4874
TDD: (503) 731-4106
Eugene Office
1400 Executive Pkwy,
Suite 200
Eugene, OR 97401
Phone: (541) 686-7623
TDD: (541) 686-7847

Pendleton Office
1327 SE 3rd, St. Room 110
P.O. Box 459
Pendleton, OR 97801
Phone: (541) 276-7884

Medford Office
119 N Oakdale Ave.
Medford, OR 97501
Phone: (541) 776-6270
Bend Office
2480 NE Twin Knolls Drive
Bend, OR 97701
Phone: (541) 322-2435

Salem Office
3865 Wolverine Ave NE, Building E, Suite 1
Salem, OR 97305-3292
Phone: (503) 378-3292

To file a claim with the EEOC, contact your local EEOC office below. More information about filing a claim with the EEOC can be found at http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/howtofil.html.

EEOC’s Seattle District Office
Federal Office Building
909 First Avenue, Suite 400
Seattle, WA 98104-1061
Phone: 206-220-6883
TTY: 206-220-6882

3. What are my time deadlines?

If you choose to have an administrative agency assist you, do not delay in contacting the BOLI or EEOC to file a claim. There are strict time limits in which charges of employment discrimination must be filed. In order for these agencies to act on your behalf, you must file with the BOLI (or cross-file with the EEOC) within 180 days or the EEOC (or cross-file with the state agency) within 300 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. However, as you might have other legal claims with shorter deadlines, do not wait to file your claim until your time limit is close to expiring. You may wish to consult with an attorney prior to filing your claim, if possible. Yet if you are unable to find an attorney who will assist you, it is not necessary to have an attorney to file your claim with the state and federal administrative agencies.

You may also wish to check with your city or county to see if you live and/or work in a city or county with a local anti-discrimination law, or ordinance. Some cities and counties in Oregon (including Portland, Corvallis, and Eugene) have agencies that process claims under local ordinances and may be able to assist you. These agencies are often called the Human Rights Commission, Human Relations Commission, or the Civil Rights Commission. Check your local telephone directory or government website for further information.

4. How can I or my attorney pursue a claim in court in Oregon?

If your case is successfully resolved by an administrative agency, it may not be necessary to hire an attorney or file a lawsuit (to resolve your case, you probably will be required as to sign a release of your legal claims). If your case is not resolved by the BOLI or EEOC and you may want to continue to pursue the matter, you will need to pursue your claim in court. A federal employment discrimination case cannot be filed in court without first going to the EEOC, as discussed above, and having the EEOC dismiss your case. This process is called exhaustion of your administrative remedy. Exhaustion is not required to file a discrimination claim in court based on state law.

Because the resolution of a state lawsuit tends to be faster, less complicated, and less costly, many Oregon attorneys choose to file employment discrimination cases in state court. However, cases may be brought in either state or federal court. Oregon’s state anti-discrimination law does not permit the compensatory (emotional pain and suffering) and punitive damages (damages intended to punish the employer) for sex, age, race, color, or national origin discrimination that are allowed under federal law. However, some attorneys believe that it is more likely that a judge in federal court will overturn these types of damages if they are awarded to employees.

Once the EEOC issues the document known as Dismissal and Notice of Rights or Notice of Right to Sue (Form 161), only then can you file a case based upon your federal claim. A lawsuit based on your federal discrimination claim must be filed in federal or state court within 90 days of the date you receive the notice. (Be sure to mark down that date when you receive the notice.) A lawsuit based on your state claim must be filed within one year of the date you believe you were discriminated against. If you have filed with BOLI, however, then you have 90 days from the receipt of a right-to-sue notice from BOLI to file in court. These deadlines are called the statute of limitations.