What's Your Unpaid Wage Claim Worth in Oregon?

Learn how to calculate what you're owed in unpaid wages and penalties in Oregon.

By , Attorney · University of San Francisco School of Law

Has your employer failed to pay you minimum wage or overtime or failed to give you meal breaks? If so, you may be able to recover unpaid wages and other compensation from your employer. Below, we explain common wage violations in Oregon, how to calculate your unpaid wages, and how to pursue your wage claim.

Unpaid Minimum Wage

Oregon's minimum wage is higher than current federal minimum wage of $7.25, so employers must pay the higher state minimum wage. In the Portland metro area, the minimum wage is higher than the statewide wage, so Portland employers must pay more.

If you didn't receive the minimum wage, you can collect unpaid wages from your employer. To calculate the amount due, take the difference between your hourly rate and the minimum wage. Then, multiply that amount by the number of hours worked. For example, if your employer paid you $2 less than the minimum wage for 40 hours of work, you would be entitled to an extra $80 per week.

Unpaid Overtime

Consistent with federal law, Oregon employers must pay employees time-and-a-half when they work more than 40 hours in a work week. (Exempt employees are not entitled to overtime pay. To learn more, see our article on which employees are exempt from overtime.)

If you didn't receive the overtime rate, you can collect 50% of your regular rate per hour. For example, suppose you worked 45 hours during the week but only received your regular hourly rate of $12 per hour (for a total of $540). The last five of your hours should have been paid at the overtime rate of $18 per hour. So you should receive the difference of $6 per hour ($18 - $12) for five hours, for a total of $30 extra per week.

Meal and Rest Breaks

Under Oregon law, employers must provide employees with a 30-minute unpaid meal break when they work six or more hours in a shift. Employers must also provide a ten-minute paid rest beak for every four hours—or major portion of four hours—worked. Under federal law, employees must be paid for any breaks of 20 minutes or less or breaks during which they are not completely relieved of their duties.

To calculate your unpaid wages, add up:

  • any breaks of more than 20 minutes that you were required to work through, and
  • any breaks of 20 minutes or less, whether you worked through them or not.

This time counts are hours worked, for which you must be paid. If the additional time results in overtime, you must be compensated at your overtime rate.

Other Common Wage Violations in Oregon

Oregon employers must also follow several other wage and hour requirements under federal and state law. Here are some other common wage violations by employers:

  • failing to pay you for work performed before you clock in or after you clock out
  • failure to pay earned bonuses or commissions
  • failure to provide paid sick leave required by state law
  • failure to provide a final paycheck on time, and
  • unauthorized deductions from wages, such as for the cost of uniforms or equipment, for cash shortages, or for property damage.

Penalties for Wage Violations in Oregon

In Oregon, employers must pay a penalty if they willfully withhold your wages after you leave their employment. If your employer has failed to pay you your final paycheck, you can receive eight hours of pay per day at your regular rate, for up to 30 days. However, if your employer pays you within 12 days of your written request, the penalty cannot exceed 100% of your unpaid wages.

In Oregon, employees with minimum wage or overtime claims can collect an additional sum called "liquidated damages" under federal law. Liquidated damages are intended to compensate you for the delay in payment of your wages. You can collect 100% of your unpaid wages as liquidated damages. For example, if you are owed $1,000 in unpaid minimum wage and overtime, you can collect another $1,000, for a total of $2,000. If you win your case, you may also be able to collect reasonable attorneys' fees and legal costs.

Filing a Claim for Unpaid Wages in Oregon

The quickest and easiest way to recover unpaid wages is often to file a wage claim with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI). BOLI handles claims for unpaid wages, including failure to pay minimum wage, overtime, promised vacation, or other benefits. To start your claim, you must complete a wage claim and mail it to BOLI's offices. If your claim does not involve minimum wage or overtime violations, you must file it within six months from the date of your termination and within one year from the date the violation first occurred.

Otherwise, the following deadlines typically apply to wage and hour violations:

  • six years for most wage violations under state law
  • two years for overtime violations under state law, and
  • two years for federal wage violations (or three years, if you can prove the violation was willful).

BOLI has a separate filing procedure for other wage and hour violations, including failure to provide meal and rest breaks, unauthorized deductions from wages, and failure to provide a final paycheck. To start a claim, you must file a wage and hour complaint online or mail a copy of the form to BOLI's offices. Complaints about paid sick leave are handled separately, by filing a sick time complaint form with BOLI. Both of these complaint forms must be filed within 180 days of the first time the violation occurred.

As you can see, there are multiple deadlines that may apply, depending on what type of claim you have. To ensure that your claims are not time-barred, it's best to file your claim or lawsuit as soon as you know your employer has violated your wage rights.

Hiring a Lawyer

You don't need to hire a lawyer to file a claim with BOLI, although you may do so if you wish. Filing a lawsuit in court is a much more complicated process though, so you should consider hiring an employment lawyer. This option would make sense if you are claiming a large amount in unpaid wages. If you're not sure which is the best route for you, consult with a lawyer first.

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