Joel christiansen bio

Joel Christiansen



Phone: (503) 841-6722 ext. 2

Contact Forms:

Employees > Employers >
Hi, I’m Joel Christiansen. I've been an employment lawyer in Oregon since 2008.

I primarily represent employees in cases involving employment contracts (e.g., employee agreements, noncompetes, severance agreements) and civil rights issues (e.g., discrimination, retaliation, leave laws, wage claims, etc.). I work on matters located throughout Oregon, primarily on a remote basis. A detailed description of my work and background is below.

In addition to my legal work, I enjoy gardening, outdoor activities, computer programming, and volunteering. I previously coached the college mock trial teams at Reed College and Portland State University. I currently serve on two nonprofit boards. I also participated in a humanitarian aid trip in Battambang and Phenom Penh, Cambodia in 2015. I live with my partner and our two rescue dogs, Milo and Gus.

Contact Instructions: The best way to contact me about a new matter is: (1) fill out one of the contact forms (green buttons above) or (2) email me at All inquiries are 100% confidential.

Work / Experience

   (A)   Employment Contracts

I help employees negotiate better employment-related agreements, including employment contracts, severance agreements, NDAs, noncompetes, and compensation agreements. 

I have reviewed, negotiated, and drafted countless employment contracts in a variety of industries including technology, healthcare, sales, finance, apparel, startups, creative agencies, and engineering.

In the vast majority of my cases, I work behind the scenes basis providing education and talking clients through the process of negotiating 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 to the Oregon Trial Lawyers Association and AFL-CIO in connection with Oregon Senate Bill 1527. The bill would amend Oregon’s primary noncompete statute, ORS 653.295. It unanimously passed the Oregon Senate and received unanimous approval from the House Committee on Business and Labor. The bill did not become law because Republicans walked-out to prevent passage of an unrelated climate change bill.

   (B)   Workplace Rights Litigation

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

From 2018-2020, I worked as 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) arising from an employer's firing of a factory worker who was on leave 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 an 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.” This case was affirmed on appeal by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and is currently before the Oregon Supreme Court on the issue of whether Oregon's noneconomic damage cap statute applies to employment discrimination claims.

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 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.

   (C)   Work Visas

I occasionally work with employers and other attorneys on U.S. work visas on behalf of international workers. My particular areas of interest are O (extraordinary abilities), P (performing arts), and Q (cultural exchange) classification visas.

I am happy to represent and associate with clients and other attorneys on work visa cases located throughout the U.S. My work in this practice area is very low volume.

In 2019, I contracted to help develop software-based immigration workflow prototypes for, a Seattle-based startup that pairs smart software with human support for work visas.
Education / Professional Background

My undergraduate degree was in political science with an emphasis in political philosophy 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 at age 19 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 went to law school.

During law school, I worked for two years as a part-time law clerk at Nicholas & Butler, LLP a plaintiff-side class action law firm in San Diego, California. I worked on 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 represented the consumers/plaintiffs in the district and circuit court proceedings in the cases that became 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.

In addition to my legal work, I am a self-taught software developer with over 15 years of experience. 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 attracted tens of thousands of users and eventually merged with 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.