If you have been subjected to unlawful discrimination in the workplace, the law is on your side. Both Oregon and federal law prohibit certain kinds of employment discrimination. However, asserting your rights can be hard. In this post, we will discuss the ways to file a legal complaint about discrimination.

First, we should define what types of discrimination are against the law, and we must note that not all forms of discrimination are illegal. Employers can have legitimate reasons to choose to hire one job candidate over another, or promote one employee over another. However, if they discriminate against people because of their race, gender or other class protected by law, then the employer has practiced unlawful discrimination.

Under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, the protected classes are race or color, sex, religion and national origin. Everyone belongs to several of these classes. For instance, everyone has a race or color, and everyone has a religious status, even if that status is no religion. Federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or job candidates solely because of their membership in a protected class. Later laws at the federal, Oregon and local levels added other classes.

With this in mind, an employer can choose to promote Bill and not Lucy because the employer feels that Bill does a better job in the new role. However, if the employer chooses Bill and not Lucy because the employer doesn’t want a woman in the job, Lucy will have a strong case that the employer practiced illegal discrimination against her.

There are many ways Lucy, or any other person who has suffered from illegal discrimination, might assert her rights. First, she can talk to someone in her employer’s human resources department, using the employer’s internal grievance system. Doing this can be intimidating, but workers who go this route are protected. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee for exercising their legal right.

The employee can file a civil rights complaint with Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries and/or with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Again, it would be illegal for the employer to retaliate against the employee for exercising the legal right to file these complaints.

Complaints with BOLI and the EEOC follow well-defined procedures, and may temporarily preclude other legal action. However, there may come a point when the employee needs to pursue action through a lawsuit in state or federal court.

At any point in the process, it’s a good idea for the employee to speak with an employment law attorney to learn about their rights and the strategies that can help.



We are still working hard (even harder) to serve our clients during the COVID-19 state of emergency. We are fully functional, but are working from home “to the maximum extent possible.” Please do not come into the office before contacting one of our attorneys, and feel free to contact our attorneys directly regarding an existing case or new matter.

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