Oklahoma is an At-Will Employment State
Being fired from a job can affect numerous parts of a person’s life. It is often traumatic for the fired employee and not only affects a person’s finances but can affect a person’s ability to find and keep another job. Oklahoma is what is known as an at-will employment state. This means that in many, but not all circumstances, an employer can legally fire an employee for any reason at any time. It is exactly what these circumstances cover and don’t cover that the issue of wrongful termination is grounded. When an employee in the Tulsa area is illegally fired, it is best to seek help from a Tulsa wrongful termination attorney.
When is an Employee Wrongfully Terminated?
Oklahoma state law and U.S. federal law make it illegal to fire an employee in certain circumstances and for certain reasons regardless of the fact that Oklahoma is generally considered to be an at-will employment state.
Here are some of the more common situations in which a firing may be considered to be wrongful:
- The firing is based on discrimination
- The firing is retaliatory
- The firing is in violation of an existing and enforceable employment contract
When a firing occurs for a discriminatory purpose of a person who is in a protected class or situation, then the firing may be illegal. Some examples of this include a person who is disabled, pregnant, older, of a different race, or when the firing is based on gender. It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against employees on the basis of age (if the worker is at least 40), gender, race and skin color, national origin, religion, disability, or pregnancy.
Each case is different, and a wrongful termination attorney can help you understand how best to handle your case. A wrongful termination attorney can help you file a discrimination complaint with either the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Oklahoma Office of Civil Rights Enforcement (OCRE).
When an employee is fired for exercising a legal right, such as whistle-blowing, reporting safety violations, seeking worker’s compensation benefits after a workplace injury, taking family or medical leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), complaining to their employer about discrimination or harassment in the workplace, or any other legal right, the termination may be considered to be retaliatory and therefore, wrongful.
Employment Contract Violations
Most employment contracts will include specific clauses regarding how an employee may be terminated. When the termination occurs in a manner or for a reason outside of those stated terms, the termination may be considered to be wrongful.
If the firing is a violation or breach of an employee contract, often an employee may sue the employer in court for wrongful termination. When the employee is covered by a union, the employee should let the union know about the firing. In all cases, it can be extremely helpful to seek the help of an experienced Tulsa wrongful termination attorney regarding the circumstances of your particular case.
Firings Against Public Policy
The public policy exception to at-will employment in Oklahoma is fairly broad. It is meant to cover a number of areas not covered in other statutes. An employer may not terminate an employee for acting in accordance with public policy mandates.
An employer may not fire an employee who refuses to engage in an illegal act that is requested by an employer. This could be lying, committing perjury in a court of law, engaging in cruel or discriminatory acts toward another employee when requested by the employer, and the like. The public policy exception also covers such things as firing an employer for reporting dangerous work conditions, or other whistle-blower activities.
There are several different venues for an employee to seek redress for wrongful termination. An employee may file a complaint with either the EEOC or OCRE. There are specific time limitations for both of these venues that must be adhered to. Once that is done, the venue can issue a notice of the right to sue. Then an employee can file suit in an Oklahoma court. Your Tulsa wrongful termination lawyer can help guide you regarding the proper venue for your case.
A wrongfully terminated employee can obtain:
- Their job back
- Back pay
- Attorneys’ fees in some cases
Free Consultation with a Tulsa Wrongful Termination Attorney
Don’t wait. The clock is ticking on your case. Ensure that you have the help you need to protect your job, your career, and your financial future. We at the Wirth Law Office are ready to help you. If you would like a free consultation with a Tulsa, Oklahoma lawyer at Wirth Law Office, call 918-879-1681 or toll-free 1-888-Wirth-Law (1-888-947-8452).
If you prefer written correspondence, you may submit a question through the form at the top right of this page. One of our wrongful termination attorneys in Tulsa will get back to you promptly.