You have rights under state and federal wage and hour laws only if an employer-employee relationship exists. So, if you are an independent contractor, a co-partner or a volunteer, these laws do not apply to you. Do not assume that you are an independent contractor just because your employer says you are. Ask the Employment Department for a description of the difference between employees and contractors.
Generally, employees in Oregon receive no less than the minimum wage of $8.80 per hour (beginning Jan. 1, 2012). Employees of the federal government receive no less than $7.25 per hour (as of July 24, 2009). 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 $8 per hour, your overtime pay is $12 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.
The minimum wage and overtime rules do not apply to some employees. For example, salespersons who usually work outside their employers' places of business (referred to as "outside sales") do not have to be paid minimum wage or overtime. Some workers on small farms and employees in livestock production are exempt from minimum wage and overtime pay. Certain student workers are not covered. Casual baby-sitters and companions to the elderly are exempt. In addition, "executive," "administrative" or "professional" employees are exempt. Salaried employees are not automatically exempt from minimum wage and overtime requirements, though.
Some employees are exempt only from the overtime rules. For example, most agricultural workers do not have to be paid overtime pay. Nor do long haul truck drivers, taxicab drivers or newspaper carriers. Sales people at automotive, farm equipment, boat and aircraft dealerships are exempt from overtime rules. Domestic workers, such as cooks and housekeepers, are exempt if they live in the households where they work. Also exempt are movie theater employees and retail sales people who receive at least 50 percent of their compensation on commission.
Special overtime rules apply to some employers. Canneries, driers and packing plants must pay overtime for any work performed more than 10 hours in a day. Mills, manufacturing establishments and factories must pay overtime for more than 10 hours worked in a day, unless a collective bargaining agreement provides otherwise.
County, city and school district employees must receive overtime after eight hours in a day, unless a collective bargaining agreement provides otherwise. Underground mine workers may not work more than eight hours in a 24-hour period. Police, firefighters and employees of hospitals, residential care facilities and nursing homes have special overtime rules. Call the Bureau of Labor and Industries or the U.S. Department of Labor for more specific information.
The employer must pay you for all the time you work. Your employer must pay you for preparing to work, such as setting up a work station or getting into special protective clothing. Also, 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.
The 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.
Employees covered by Oregon's minimum wage law are entitled to certain minimum working conditions. For example, as an employee, if you work between two hours, one minute and 6 hours, you get a 10-minute paid rest period. You should 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 should be at least one-half hour 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 meal period is counted as work time and the employer must pay the employee 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.
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.
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.
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 five days or on the next regular payday, whichever occurs first(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 but you are still on the employer's payroll, 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. It is the employer's duty to ensure that a check is provided to you.
If you don't think you've been paid all of your agreed wages or minimum wages, or for overtime or fringe benefits, you can file a claim with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. That agency has offices in Bend, Coos Bay, Eugene, Medford, Pendleton, Portland and Salem. If you were employed by a public employer, it may also be necessary for you to file a notice of claim with your employer as well. A claim for wages also may be brought by a private attorney on your behalf, and if successful the court may order your attorneys fees to be paid in part or in full by the employer.
Legal editor: Diane C. Cady, October 2011