Dying on the job ≠ Quitting

Pursuant to ORS 652.140 wages are due to an employee who quits without 48 hours advance notice within 5 days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Today, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that an employee who dies on the job does not “quit” for purposes of the final paycheck rule.  As a result, the employee’s estate does not have a claim for unpaid wages and penalties under ORS 652.140 because the employer did not pay the estate the deceased employee’s wages within 5 days after he died.  As the Court explained:

Although both dying and quitting necessarily involve the cessation of work, “quitting” would not generally be understood to include stopping work involuntarily, either because the employer fires the employee or because the employee involuntarily dies while still employed. Rather, quitting is generally understood to be an intentional and voluntary act—an employee quits when he or she chooses to “give up employment.”

Accordingly, the Court held “ the term “quit,” as used in ORS 652.140(2), means an intentional and voluntary act and does not refer to a person who involuntarily dies while employed.”

Note, ORS 652.190 sets out the procedure for payment of wages when an employee dies and provides for different penalties than ORS 652.140.

http://www.publications.ojd.state.or.us/docs/A156750.pdf

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