Joel christiansen bio

Joel Christiansen



Phone: (503) 841-6722 ext. 2

Contact Forms:

Employees > Employers >
*** COVID Information / Consultations ***

For links to government resources and information, please click here.

I am providing free phone consultations to Oregonians with work-related COVID questions (e.g., leave, unemployment, safety). These consultations are to help pass along basic information and referrals to appropriate resources, not to provide substantive legal advice or a legal opinion. I will not offer or provide legal representation.

I've blocked off an hour and half on my calendar each morning but you MUST schedule a call in advance by clicking here.

Thanks, Joel

↓ Bio ↓

Hi, I’m Joel Christiansen. I've practiced Oregon employment law since 2008. My focus areas are employment contracts, work visas, and select employee rights cases. I primarily represent employees. I work on cases throughout Oregon. Summaries of my recent experience, practice areas, and professional background are below.

In addition to my legal work, I enjoy gardening, cycling, backpacking, and writing computer code (especially Ruby). I live with my partner Sarah and our two rescue dogs, Milo and Gus. I volunteered as a college mock trial coach for several years at Reed College and Portland State University. In 2015, I volunteered with a humanitarian aid mission in Cambodia.

(1)  New Matters / Contacting Me

My practice is low volume by design. I do my own work and occasionally team up with other lawyers on select larger cases. I work primarily with clients on a remote basis.

To contact me about a new matter, please start by filling out a contact form (employees: click here / employers: click here). Answering the questions on this form helps cut down on back and forth. If I can't help you, I'll try to provide you with a referral.

(2)   Legal Work

        (A)   Employment Contracts

I draft, review, edit, and negotiate employment-related agreements, including employment contracts, NDAs, noncompetes, compensation agreements, and severance agreements.

I have worked extensively with contracts for executives, physicians, lawyers, engineers, creatives, and many other professionals. In the vast majority of my cases, I work on a "behind the scenes" basis to help negotiate fair, reasonable, and clear contractual terms. I occasionally work on breach of contract cases and other disputed matters.

I have a special interest in noncompetes, NDAs, confidentiality agreements, and privacy-related matters. In 2020, I provided technical support for Oregon Senate Bill 1527. The bill would amend Oregon’s primary noncompete statute, ORS 653.295. The bill unanimously passed the Oregon Senate and received unanimous approval from the House Committee on Business and Labor. The bill died after state representatives engaged in a walkout to avoid passage of an unrelated climate change bill.

        (B)   Work Visas

I work with employers and other attorneys to petition for U.S. work visas on behalf of international workers. Specifically, O (extraordinary ability), P (performance), and Q (cultural) classification visas. I am happy to represent and associate with clients and other attorneys on work visa cases located throughout the U.S.

In 2019, I contracted to help develop software-based immigration workflow prototypes for, a Seattle-based startup that "pair[s] smart software with human support" for O, EB-1, and H-1B visas.

        (C)   Employment/Civil Rights Litigation

I have significant experience in Oregon civil rights cases, wage claims, and other employment litigation matters.

From 2018-2020, I was co-counsel with Jim Vogele and the Oregon Law Center in the case of Cole v. Kraft Heinz, 18-cv-02121-SU (U.S.D.C., Pendleton Division). This case involved claims under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA) in connection with the termination of  plaintiff's employment while he was away from work caring for a critically ill family member.

From 2015-2019, I represented the plaintiff in Zweizig v. Northwest Direct Teleservices, Inc., 3:15-cv-02401-HZ (U.S.D.C., Portland Division). A federal jury returned a unanimous $1 million noneconomic damages verdict for the plaintiff under ORS 659A.030(1)(g). As the Oregonian reported, the case involved “a fired technology manager [...] unlawfully retaliated against by a former boss who published nearly 100,000 words in derogatory articles about him on a website and public blog.”

My other recent litigation matters have included:
  • Represented IT Director of a public entity in whistleblower retaliation litigation arising under ORS 659A.199 and related statutes.

  • Pursued arbitration matter for executive of a biotechnology company in a breach of contract case.

  • Represented political asylee in state law claims under ORS Chapters 652 and 653 to recover unpaid minimum wages and overtime pay from employer who housed employees in dormitory-style living arrangements.

  • Defended California technology company against former employee's Oregon claims for unpaid commissions.

  • Represented public employee in successful administrative proceedings and appeal to Oregon Court of Appeals in connection with unemployment insurance benefits.

  • Represented several crime victims in actions under ORS 659A.270 et seq. against employers who terminated employment due to crime victim status.

  • Defended software engineering firm against claims from former remote employee.

  • Represented fire chief in whistleblower claims including ORS 659A.203 et seq. and ORS 659A.199.

  • Obtained unlawful employment practice substantial evidence determinations from the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) on behalf of workers.

(3)   Background

I have an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) in 2004. I obtained my law degree from the California Western School of Law in San Diego, California in 2008. I have been an active member of the Oregon State Bar since 2008.

I started my legal career during college as a volunteer paralegal at the UWM Student Legal Clinic, a student-funded free legal clinic. We worked primarily on housing and landlord-tenant matters against off-campus landlords. We also did campus-based legal education and collaborated on neighborhood initiatives with public officials and other nonprofit organizations.

Also during college, I worked as an intake specialist at the Milwaukee County Bar Association's Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRS). There I fielded 25-50 calls from throughout Milwaukee County and referred to a network of local attorneys, community agencies, government services, etc. I was promoted to LRS Director, a job I held until I moved for law school.

I worked during law school as a law clerk at Nicholas & Butler, LLP a plaintiff-side class action law firm in San Diego, California. I did investigations, discovery, motion work, and trial preparation in commercial cases, consumer class actions, and employment litigation cases in state and federal courts and private arbitration. The firm's cases included unfair business practices and product origin fraud cases against retailers and manufacturers under statutes, often including claims under California's Unfair Competition Law (UCL), B&P Code § 17200 et seq. We brought claims in connection with factory made goods falsely marketed as "Made in the U.S.A." and foods falsely marketed as "Grown in California." We also handled district and circuit court proceedings in AT&T v. Concepcion, 563 U.S. 333 (2011).

After working for a year as an associate attorney at a Portland plaintiff-side law firm, I hung a shingle and have been happily self-employed ever since. I occasionally volunteer and speak for professional organizations.

In addition to my legal work, I am a self-taught software developer with over 15 years of experience. I recently contracted for a startup developing immigration-related software prototypes. In 2016, I built a legal records automation system that used open source tools to scrape and organize Oregon state trial court records. In 2004, I created an art sales website that eventually integrated into another large art sales website. I'm proficient in most forms of modern web development including back and front-end frameworks, database management, cloud services, and project management tools.