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socrateaser, Lawyer
Category: Legal
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Experience:  Retired (mostly)
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Spouse Received a Verbal Written warning without any prior

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Spouse Received a Verbal Written warning without any prior infractions at our Eugene, Oregon Plywood Mill Employer in the last 6 1/2 years. She did not read a ticket and resulted in a 30 piece load not correctly being sized in thickness. After assessment, my spouse made the correct decision, as expressed by her Supervisor, to re-size the 30 piece load of plywood to a commonly used size. She then received a Verbal Written Warning the next day for not reading reading the ticket. Bad Judgement on behalf of the Supervisor due to Structure Issues of new employees my spouse was relying on to do her job or what?

Is this employer's relationship with employees controlled by a collective bargaining agreement (union contract)?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.


Customer: replied 3 years ago.

So what do you think?

Okay, thanks.

I'm going to "cut to the chase," so that you know exactly where you stand. Please don't "shoot the messenger." I don't like it any better than you.

Oregon is what is known as an "at-will" employment jurisdiction. This means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all. There are exceptions for discrimination based on race, color, nationality, religion, sex, age or disability -- and for jury duty, witness subpoena, report of an employer's actual or threatened criminal conduct, OSHA violations, etc.

However, absent one of the above-described exceptions, an employer can terminate an employee for, quite literally, brushing their teeth with their left hand.

This rather distressing fact, which is generally unknown to most employees, makes arguments with supervisors, HR departments, and the like, largely irrelevant. Because, no matter what the employee argues or claims, the employer can say, "That's nice, but if you do it again, you're fired."

Armed with this knowledge, the employee has a very simple choice: explain their position on the issue and then just leave it up to the employer to decide what to do. The only thing that the employee can actually do that will provide any real protection, is to (1) not quit under any circumstances -- always make the employer fire you; and (2) refuse to sign any written warning. The reason for both of these things is that if the employee is terminated, obtaining unemployment insurance benefits centers on being able to prove that the employee never did anything wrong, and they did not voluntarily quit.

If you sign the warning, then the employer can fire you and then present the warning in the unemployment hearing as proof of the violation of the employer's rules. That signature will hang you, and you'll lose your unemployment insurance benefits. Similarly, if you quit, then you have to prove that no reasonable employee would have remained employed under similar conditions, which is very difficult to do -- otherwise, once again, you lose your unemployment insurance benefits.

That's it -- it's incredibly unfair and unjust, but the laws were written to favor the employer. So, unless you can prove that the employer is hammering you because you're african american, brown skinned, Iranian, Muslim, female, aged 40 or older, or in a wheelchair, then what I've explained here is the best that you can do under the circumstances.

And, if you can prove unlawful discrimination, then that changes everything, because you can crush the employer under the weight of federal law. If that happens to be the case, let me know and I can discuss this further. Otherwise, you have everything there is to guide you in dealing with HR.

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

My Wife is 49 years of age and has two younger females learning parts of her job by a Supervisor who does not know the jobs he is teaching of which is making things more difficult. Is there a law that states that an employer must follow ethical boundaries regarding verbal warnings or can they just do what they want in Eugene,Oregon?

The at-will employment doctrine is the same throughout the state. Ethics are irrelevant. If you could show that the load violates the vehicle code or some OSHA regulation, then that would give you absolute immunity, because any discipline or termination would be in response for refusing to violate Oregon or federal law. But, if it's simply an internal policy of the mill, or a construction industry standard, then the employer can do whatever it wants.

What you have described about your spouse's age and the younger employees, suggests the possibility of her being eased out of the job to make way for younger and less costly employees. That's age discrimination -- which isn't necessarily easy to prove. However, if your spouse files a charge with the EEOC immediately, then the employer will have to back off, because retaliation for a complaint to the EEOC, even if there is no discrimination found, creates separate legal liability for the employer if it takes any adverse employment action against the employee.

So, your spouse may want to file an EEOC charge, and see where it goes.

If she wants to discuss this with a local employment rights attorney, the see this link for a referral.

Hope this helps.
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