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Oregon Supreme Court Ruling Helps State Collect Back Wages

OPB | Jan. 16, 2014 4:13 p.m. | Updated: Jan. 17, 2014 12:17 p.m. | Portland

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An Oregon Supreme Court ruling Thursday strengthens the hand of state labor investigators, when it comes to collecting back wages.

Court documents show that when the North Portland bar called “the Portsmouth Club” — folded, owner Dustin Drago left town without paying his workers thousands in owed wages.

The Penner family owned the building, and had leased it to Drago. The Penners had run a bar there before Drago and opened one after he left.

The Supreme Court has now ruled that Drago and the Penners had a close enough connection, that the Penners have to pay the back wages.

Oregon labor commissioner Brad Avakian says the ruling targets wage-dodging business owners.

“We’re going to hold those employers accountable for their debts. We’re going to protect the workers. That’s what we’ve always done. This decision from the Oregon Supreme Court just reaffirms that that’s the right and the legal thing to do,” Avakian said.

The Penners’ attorney had argued that the state’s position could make businesses liable for the debts of other, largely unrelated businesses.

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