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Wage and Hour Law

Under both Oregon and federal laws, employees have the right to be paid the proper wage for all hours worked, when those wages are due. Below are the answers to some frequently asked questions about wage and hour cases. For any other questions, contact the Egan Legal Team.

What is the "proper wage"?

On January 1, 2016, the Oregon minimum wage remained at $9.25 per hour (which it has been since January 1, 2015). The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour.

Also, employers generally must pay for overtime at a rate of one and one-half times your regular rate of pay. If you work more than 40 hours in a week, those extra hours worked are overtime. For example, if your regular rate of pay is $10 per hour, your overtime pay is $15 per hour for each hour more than 40 you work in one week. Nothing in the law allows private employers to give employees comp time, that is, paid time off, instead of paying for overtime.

What counts as "hours worked"?

Your employer must pay you for all the time you work. They must also pay you for preparing to work, such as setting up a work station or getting into special protective clothing. In addition, your employer must pay you for time spent concluding your work, such as cleaning your workspace or dropping the employer's mail off at the post office. You must also be paid for any break of fewer than 30 minutes.

Your employer must pay you for attending required training, lectures and meetings related to your job. Waiting on the job is considered work time if you cannot use that time effectively for your own purposes. You are not paid for waiting if your employer completely relieves you from duty for a period of time long enough for you to use for your own purposes. If you are on-call or use a beeper, your employer will pay you only for time you are actually called to work. Normal travel time to and from work is not paid work time. Travel as part of your job description is paid work time. If your job allows for sleeping time and you are on duty for less than 24 hours, the sleeping time is paid. If you are on duty for 24 or more hours, you and your employer may agree to exclude meal and sleep periods of up to eight hours from your paid work time.

What does it mean if I am "exempt"?

Some employees are "exempt" from minimum wage and/or overtime rules. However, just because your employer says that you are exempt does not mean that you really are exempt under the law. Many of our clients are misclassified by their employers and are owed money as a result. Salaried or commissioned employees are NOT automatically exempt from minimum wage and overtime requirements. Likewise, just because your employer calls you an "independent contractor" doesn't mean that you are one under the law. Exemption and employment definitions can be complicated. Feel free to contact us with questions about your specific employment situation.

What are the rules for breaks and meal periods?

Employees covered by Oregon's minimum wage law are entitled to certain minimum working conditions. For example, as an employee, you get a 10 minute paid rest period during every four hours of work. You must be relieved of all work during the break. Rest periods are separate from meal periods. Meal periods are required if you work more than six hours. They must be at least 30 minutes long, and employers do not have to pay for that time if you are completely relieved of work during the meal period. Employers may require employees to do some work during the meal period if the nature of the job makes it difficult to completely relieve them. In that case, the entire meal period is counted as work time and the employer must pay you for it. Employers are required to provide you with a sanitary and safe work area and may not require you to lift excessive weight. These rules regarding working conditions do not apply to agricultural workers.

Do I have the right to see my personnel records?

You have the right to inspect most of your personnel records. Employers are required to keep them for 60 days after you terminate employment, and you can request a copy of your personnel records for as long as the employer keeps them. The employer can charge you a reasonable amount for copies.

What should appear on my paycheck?

Oregon law requires employers to keep regular paydays, such as weekly or monthly. You should get a statement of the amounts and purposes of any deductions from your wages. The statement is required with every paycheck. Deductions may be made for taxes and for the fair market value of meals and lodging provided for your benefit. Other deductions may be made only if they are for your benefit and you authorize them in writing in advance. Deductions may not be made to cover breakage or losses an employee may have caused. If you are paid minimum wage, deductions may not be made to cover the cost of uniforms or tools or their maintenance.

What are the rules for final paychecks?

When you quit a job, all wages must be paid on the last day of work if you give the employer at least 48 hours' notice. If you quit without notice, the employer must pay all wages due within 5 days, not counting weekends or holidays. If your employer fires you, all your earned wages must be paid no later than the end of the first business day after the termination. If you are temporarily laid off or if you go on strike, your employer may give you your paycheck on the next regular payday. If your employer fails to pay you any wages due in your final paycheck, you may be entitled by law to continued wages for up to 30 days. This means that you are entitled to 8 hours pay for every day your paycheck is late. If you leave employment and you are the only one with accurate records of the hours you worked, the employer is obliged to pay only what the employer reasonably estimates is the correct amount.

How much does it cost me to pursue a wage claim?

Usually nothing. In both Oregon and federal court, a judge can order the employer to pay a successful wage claimant's attorney fees. In case of a settlement, case costs are paid from the recovery. Please see the FAQ section for more information on case costs and attorney fees.

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