Hall v. State of Oregon

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Employment Law
  • Date Filed: 10-21-2015
  • Case #: A156103
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: DeVore, J., for the Court; Ortega, P.J.; & Garrett, J.
  • Full Text Opinion

Oregon whistleblower statutes require subjective good faith; an employee may have been wrongfully discharged when he filed a police report against his employer if the filing was objectively reasonable within the circumstances.

Hall worked at a facility regulated by the Oregon Youth Authority (OYA). Hall left a drink unattended; when he returned, he drank from it and found a “foreign substance” inside. Three OYA employees saw a strange substance in the drink as well. Hall filed an incident report. He was found “unconfirmed positive” for barbiturates and cannabinoids. After receiving the test results, Hall filed a police report against OYA. OYA investigated, notified Hall of pre-dismissal, held a pre-dismissal hearing, and terminated Hall, citing violation of the drug-free workplace policy and providing false information to management. Hall filed a complaint alleging violation of state whistleblowing statutes (ORS 659A.199, ORS 659A.203, and ORS 659A.230), wrongful discharge, and violation of right to due process. The trial court granted Defendants’ motion for summary judgment. Hall appealed, arguing that his claims under whistleblower statutes only require the employee report in subjective good faith, and that only ORS 659A.203 requires an “objectively reasonable” standard. Defendants contended that all three statutes require an “objectively reasonable” standard. The Court held that, because it was common for youth offenders to attack OYA employees, it was reasonable that Hall believed that he was poisoned in the moment; therefore, the trial court erred when it found that Hall was not a whistleblower within subjective good faith. The court also held that the trial court erred when it found that Hall’s police report was objectively reasonable within the circumstances. Judgment on whistleblower and wrongful discharge claims reversed and remanded; otherwise affirmed.

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