State Law: Oklahoma

 

The Law

The Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act, which is found in Title 25 of the Oklahoma General Statutes, makes it illegal for an employer or labor organization to discriminate against someone on the basis of sex. The Commission was created by Title 74, Section 952 of the Oklahoma Statutes.

The Act does not apply to employees who are employed by their parents, spouse, or child or to those employed in the domestic service of their employer.

An "employer" is defined as "a person who has fifteen or more employees for each working day in each of twenty (20) or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year, or a person who as a contractor or subcontractor is furnishing the material or performing work for the state or a governmental entity or agency of the state and includes an agent of such a person but does not include an Indian tribe or a bona fide membership club not organized for profit."

Thus, the Oklahoma statute against discrimination in the workplace applies only to employers with 15 or more employees, which is the same number of employees required by Title VII.

The Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act specifically covers employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, and retaliation.

In Oklahoma, it is not a discriminatory practice for an employer "pursuant to a plan, to provide differences in annuity, death, and survivors’ benefits between widows and widowers of employees." § 25-1311.

Filing A Complaint

The Oklahoma Human Rights Commission investigates complaints filed with it free of charge. Complaints under state law must be filed within 180 days of the date you became aware you were being discriminated against or the date of the alleged illegal act. You may file a complaint with the Commission by visiting or calling the office at (405) 521-2360 or 1-888-456-2558. The Commission is located in the Jim Thorpe Building at 2101 N. Lincoln Boulevard, Room 480, in Oklahoma City.


Once you file a complaint with the Commission, the Commission will send your employer a letter and a copy of your complaint, stating that you believe you were/are being discriminated against. The employer will have an opportunity to respond to this complaint.


An investigator will be assigned to your case, who will act as a neutral decision-maker to determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe you have been discriminated against and your rights violated.


If reasonable cause is found, you and your employer will be required to attempt to negotiate a settlement through the Commission’s conciliation proceedings. If settlement negotiations fail, an administrative hearing will be held before an Administrative Law Judge. If your case goes to public hearing, you will not have to incur any legal expenses or other costs, as you would have to pay in a court case, unless you hire your own private attorney.


You may decide to go through the federal court process instead of the Commission’s investigative process. You must first file with the EEOC and request a Notice of Right to Sue in order to file in federal court. The attorney you hire will explain this process to you. There is no private right of action in Oklahoma for discrimination claims (except for disability discrimination claims), which means that only the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission may file this type of claim in court. Many Oklahoma attorneys thus choose to file employment discrimination claims in federal court under federal law.


For more information and a more detailed explanation of the complaint process, please visit the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission website.