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Bill providing further workplace whistleblower protections passes Oregon Senate in party-line vote

Democrats and Republicans were sharply divided on Senate Bill 483, which would make it easier for workers to claim retaliation if punished after making a complaint to state regulators.

Posted: Apr 14, 2021 3:42 PM
Updated: Apr 14, 2021 3:46 PM

SALEM, Ore. — A bill that would extend protections for workplace whistleblowers in Oregon passed the state Senate in a party-line vote on Wednesday. Senate Bill 483 would make it easier for workers to claim retaliation if punished by their employers after making a complaint to state regulators.

While it is already illegal for employers to retaliate against a worker for reporting workplace health and safety violations, supporters of the bill say that the burden of proving that any such punishment constitutes retaliation currently falls squarely on the worker.

Under SB 483, a "rebuttable presumption" would be created if an employer fires or otherwise punishes a worker within 60 days of a complaint, shunting the burden of proof onto employers for the period immediately following such a report, complaint, or testimony.

“Oregon's workers have kept our communities safe and functional throughout this pandemic. Grocery store workers, farmworkers and healthcare professionals and every worker couldn't stay home,” said Democratic Senator Kathleen Taylor who introduced and championed the bill. “These workers showed up day in and day out, and they deserve adequate protections from retaliation.”

Senate Republicans made no secret of their opposition to the bill, saying in a statement that the bill would "bulldoze principles of due process in the workplace" and create a presumption of guilt for employers accused of retaliation.

“This bill opens up employers to a wide variety of spurious allegations from employees and activist lawyers,” said Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod. “This would send struggling businesses’ legal expenses through the roof at the same time they are trying to recover from a year of devastating lockdowns. Let me be clear, discrimination or retaliation in the workplace is unacceptable. The remedy for it is not to rewrite the rules of due process.”

The primary way for workers to make a workplace health or safety complaint is through Oregon OSHA, which has seen a glut of complaints amid the added precautions and restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic — in a number of cases resulting in hefty fines for businesses accused of flouting state guidelines.

“Too many workers are afraid to bring concerns over their health and safety, even though in 2020 complaints to OSHA increased tenfold. These are workers we rely on. Senate Bill 483 will remove some of the fear of reporting a health or safety violation, and ensure a more level playing field should they experience retaliation," added Senator Taylor.

The bill now moves on to the Oregon House of Representatives for consideration.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 348766

Reported Deaths: 4161
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah54797689
Washington37988313
Marion36055444
Clackamas29094304
Lane26966298
Jackson22632300
Deschutes19577123
Umatilla14241144
Linn12380120
Douglas11795240
Josephine9233195
Yamhill8517110
Klamath7709110
Polk715380
Malheur551574
Benton529130
Coos489691
Columbia371343
Jefferson361450
Union313146
Lincoln310638
Wasco281540
Crook274745
Clatsop239529
Baker198028
Tillamook193328
Hood River188337
Morrow181623
Curry178122
Harney108424
Grant97612
Lake89011
Wallowa67012
Gilliam1484
Sherman1463
Wheeler991
Unassigned00

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Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4812309

Reported Deaths: 70616
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles147679126410
Riverside3693444990
San Diego3646344163
San Bernardino3563155566
Orange3227415518
Sacramento1576212279
Santa Clara1445181890
Kern1441461605
Fresno1441232051
Alameda1198871374
San Joaquin1018071708
Ventura1005241164
Contra Costa99234982
Stanislaus851571315
Tulare78945951
San Francisco54031645
San Mateo53828622
Monterey50696582
Solano45761334
Santa Barbara44836521
Merced41781577
Sonoma40711402
Placer38902415
Imperial35642764
Kings32369314
San Luis Obispo29653329
Madera23518281
Butte23364260
Shasta23360334
Santa Cruz20861218
Yolo20147247
Marin17581243
El Dorado16960149
Sutter13775169
Napa12808100
Yuba994282
Tehama9298104
Humboldt9102108
Nevada903990
Mendocino752786
Lassen746346
San Benito737372
Tuolumne673993
Lake6506104
Amador537264
Siskiyou442742
Glenn430330
Calaveras381780
Del Norte356141
Colusa301718
Inyo196739
Mono16445
Plumas15756
Mariposa127315
Trinity86011
Modoc6698
Unassigned1860
Sierra1760
Alpine1020
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