Employment Law Attorneys at Worden & Carbitcher
It might surprise you to hear that in general, many Oklahomans are unaware of their employee rights in the workplace. While Oklahoma is an “at-will” state - meaning an employer may terminate the employee at any time, there are laws in place to protect employees in certain situations. Knowing the specifics of these rights will help you as an employee to 1) avoid termination, should you need to assert yourself in that position, or 2) take legal action against an employer who has wrongfully terminated your employment.
What reasons can I be fired?
In Oklahoma, an employer may terminate an employee for almost any reason (and an employee may also quit for any reason). When you are hired for a position, you and your employer both sign a contract. Within that contract should outline the reasons for which you may be fired. If an employer fires the employee for reasons outside of the contract, he or she may be liable for damages, but all in all, most of the time, the employer can legally terminate your employment.
However, members of the workforce cannot be discriminated against on the basis of age, race, gender, disability, or pregnancy.
Discrimination Based on Age
Age discrimination is sometimes a form of discrimination that many people feel is more “perceived” than real. But the truth is, as technology advances, sometimes it's the long-term employees who have been the most dedicated that end up on the chopping block first. Employers may be looking to add a “younger face” to their brand, hire more tech-savvy employees, or avoid training older employees on new technologies.
Just know that this act of discrimination of people over the age of forty is illegal. If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated or have missed out on promotions, opportunities, or advancements in your job due to your age, the attorneys at Worden & Carbitcher are ready to fight on your behalf.
Racial discrimination can come in many forms. It's hard to believe we continue facing racial discrimination in 2023, but this is a very real and devastating issue that still exists. Your ability to do your job is the only basis on which your employer may evaluate you. Anything outside of this is irrelevant and unacceptable, and many times, illegal.
Racial discrimination can look like something as blatant as racial slurs from co-workers or employers, or more subtle forms such as promotions, raises, company social gatherings, and opportunities for advancement. In 2021, one in four black and Hispanic workers reported facing discrimination in the workplace.
Our race discrimination attorneys are prepared to fight on your behalf. We will do our due diligence in obtaining the information, documentation, and possibly even witnesses to ensure your voice is heard and you obtain the best possible outcome in your case. Discrimination should never be tolerated, and we are passionate about seeing justice prevail in every case we have the opportunity to represent.
Despite more progressive times, many still believe that a job is better suited for one gender than the other. Even if there is no malice behind this assumption, this kind of biased thinking can lead to discrimination in the hiring, firing, and promotional opportunities in the workforce.
This kind of discrimination can go both ways. Perhaps you are a male applying for a secretarial position and the employer makes mention of the role being “geared toward women.” You don't get the job despite being highly qualified for the position. This is a form of gender discrimination. Consider another scenario: you are a female mechanic working in an auto body shop and you are up for a promotion that you feel you are most suited for, and a male employee gets it instead.
Of course, there are many perfectly valid and legal reasons why an employer may give one person a promotion, job, or advancement over another. However, if there are specific remarks made or you have reason to believe that it is due to your gender, it's important to contact our office and speak with a gender discrimination attorney as soon as possible to get the legal representation you need.
Disability and ADA Claims
Earning a living is crucial for everyone, and many people with disabilities lead productive, functioning lives. The Americans with Disabilities Act created strong protections for people with physical and cognitive disabilities. This civil rights law guarantees that everyone has an equal right to employment, goods, and services, as well as state and federal programs.
Under the ADA, a person with disabilities is someone with mental or physical impairments that substantially limits one or more major life activities. These are obviously broad terms for a reason and significantly depend on the individual and his or her specific situation. The act also protects people who have a history of impairments, such as a person who had cancer but is currently in remission.
Adverse action and disparate treatment against a person with disabilities (whether perceived or real) is prohibited. This encompasses the hiring and firing process and includes accommodations within the workplace as well. Your employer must provide reasonable accommodations for your disability. Again, the language here is broad for a reason, as “reasonable accommodations” will be specific to that workplace, meaning they may vary from place to place.
Sometimes in employee litigation court, a business will claim that providing the employee's requested accommodation would cause “undue hardship” on the business. This may or may no be the case. This is why it's important to hire a skilled employment law attorney who can investigate and assess the situation thoroughly and ensure you're getting the best possible outcome.
You should never be punished by your employer for becoming pregnant. Unfortunately, this does happen. If you have become pregnant and were fired from your job, lost opportunities, or reduced employment hours, you may be facing pregnancy discrimination and need to take legal action. Other forms of discrimination can include harassment for missing work due to pregnancy, lack of accommodation for pregnancy-related illnesses or ailments, or your employer refusing to give you family leave and time off.
As an employee, you have the right to a hostile-free workplace. Harassment of any kind is prohibited under the Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Sexual harassment in the workplace is incredibly common. Some staggering statistics show that between 54-81% of women report having experienced some form of sexual harassment in the workplace. Most of these occurrences went unreported, and over half of the women state that the harassment hurt their careers. This is tragic.
If you're a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, know that you are not alone. We believe that the more people who report and seek justice for this harassment, the fewer occurrences there will be in the future. In other words, perpetrators must know that there are consequences for their actions.
At Worden & Carbitcher, we have over 50 years of combined experience among our team of attorneys. We have a passion for justice and through legal representation, protecting the voice of those who have been abused and discriminated against.
Sexual harassment includes the following actions that are used as conditions of employment or used to make employment decisions:
- Sexual advances
- Requests for sexual acts
- Physical and verbal actions that are sexual in nature
Workplace harassment can come from a boss, owner, co-worker, vendor, client or customer, or supervisor.
No matter your circumstances, if you feel you're facing any kind of workplace-related discrimination, it's important to speak with one of our employment law attorneys who can assess your case and give you legal advice during your paid consultation. We are a team of skilled and compassionate professionals who have over fifty years of combined experience. We will ensure your voice is heard and your rights upheld.
Call our office at 405.360.8036 for more information and to schedule an appointment.