Unpaid Overtime Demands in Oregon – 3 Things to Consider

by Joel Christiansen

Dealing with unpaid overtime issues is never a pleasant task. However, despite the high penalties and costs of settling overtime claims, Oregon employers continue to break the law every day.

If you are facing an unpaid overtime  issue, you want to be educated and prepared. Overtime laws involve complex state and federal laws, rules, and regulations. When you combine these complex laws with convoluted and sometimes dishonest employment practices, it can be very difficult to determine and enforce legal rights.

Not every overtime claim requires a lawyer. Some claims can be settled out of court without counsel. Others are handled through a government agency, which will deal with employers as it sees fit. Other cases need to be litigated aggressively.

In determining whether to retain counsel, I encourage readers to consider the points I list below. However, if you have any uncertainty or questions about a particular situation, seeking qualified counsel is strongly advised.

Is It Worth Enough To Fight Over?

Sometimes employees do not realize how large overtime claims can be. Remember that employers can be liable for significant penalties, liquidated damages, interest, and other amounts. In some cases, it is possible to recover attorneys’ fees from the employer that failed to pay overtime. These penalties and fees alone are a good reason to seek qualified help early on.

How Long Do Overtime Disputes Take?

Timing is important with overtime claims. Because of relevant statutes of limitations, employees who delay in bringing overtime lawsuits against employers can actually decrease the value of their claims. Employees who act too quickly or fail to send proper notices, etc. may  jeopardize their rights to later recover certain overtime penalties, liquidated damages, attorneys’ fees, etc. Therefore, it is important to be careful to understand and observe all legal rules about the timing of overtime lawsuits.

The actual amount of time an overtime dispute will last depends largely on how it is handled. If the parties cannot reach a reasonable resolution within a prompt timeframe, the next step is litigation. Litigation creates significant risks for both parties. These risks include payment of costs and attorneys’ fees. That said, some employers will choose to fight overtime claims.

What Is The Proper Way to Handle a Demand for Unpaid Overtime?

Due to recent changes in Oregon law, many demands for unpaid overtime under state law need to meet certain statutory requirements. In some cases, this is accomplished by sending written notice with specific information to the employer. Depending on the particular case, notices may come from an attorney or government agency. Other notices, such as those required under Oregon law as a prerequisite to attorney fee recoveries, must be sent by the employee’s attorney.

Make sure you know the procedural rules. Or retain an attorney who does.

When Is Professional Help Appropriate?

I know that hiring a lawyer can be expensive. However, given the complexities of overtime law itself, I strongly recommend professional help. Even if it is not me – find qualified help. BOLI and DOL can be great resources for those who are willing to work with often overworked government agencies. However, for substantial overtime claims, I typically find that having counsel is the clearest and fastest route to getting the claim resolved.