Five Things to Consider When Responding to a BOLI Complaint

The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) responds to complaints filed by employees against their employers. Allegations range from failing to pay the correct amount in the employee's final paycheck to retaliation for filing a workers' compensation claim or for taking family medical leave allowed by law.

BOLI reviews complaints, and then contacts employers for a response. If BOLI finds the employee's complaint credible in light of the employer's response, it may decide to file an administrative action against the employer. An enforcement action is much like a lawsuit and can impose legal liability on the employer, without some important protections an employer would otherwise receive in a civil trial.

Having a BOLI complaint filed against your business can be daunting. The initial response and witness statements or other evidence submitted sets the stage for what comes next, so it is critical to get it right..

If an employee files a complaint against you with BOLI, you should take the following five steps:

  1. Hire an attorney. Navigating the complicated framework of employment law can be a fraught with peril if done without legal advice. Employment law is made up of a sea of state and federal statutes. An experienced employment attorney can help make sense of the law. Moreover, BOLI is more likely to bring an action against an unrepresented employer than one who has counsel.
  2. Carefully gather and review records. Whether your business is faced with a discrimination claim, wage and hour claim, or a different employment claim, records are important. Carefully gathering and reviewing records can simplify the process of resolving the claim and ensure you are prepared if the complaint proceeds.
  3. Interview employees to gain their statements.Gathering evidence early ensures you are prepared to address the BOLI complaint, negotiate settlement, or, if necessary, proceed to trial. Interviewing employees helps prepare evidence, but it is best done and documented by counsel.
  4. Don't disparage the complainant. It can be easy to say something you'll later regret when you're faced with a complaint and emotions are running high. It is important to remain respectful toward your employees. Showing contempt for your current or former employee can make an investigator more likely to believe there was a bad motive for an employer's conduct.
  5. Refer to insurance policies. Your business's insurance policy may cover claims an employee brings against you. It is important to ask an attorney experienced with insurance matters to review your insurance policy and determine if you have coverage for the claims.

Navigating an employment dispute can be challenging. Emotions often run high, leading to missteps.

The best way to fend off a BOLI complaint is to prepare a thoughtful and strategic defense to the employee's complaint. Even if an employer is successful and BOLI does not bring an enforcement action, that does not preclude the employee from hiring a private attorney to bring a civil claim in court. Laying out a compelling case in response to a BOLI complaint can discourage an attorney who is later asked to bring a civil claim.

An experienced employment litigation attorney can ensure your business is protected and the complaint resolves effectively. Contact the employment attorneys at Chenoweth Law Group, P.C. by calling (503) 446-6261.

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