Oklahoma Whistleblower Laws

Whistleblower Laws of Oklahoma

A Summary of Oklahoma Whistleblower Laws

Oklahoma is an employment-at-will state. This means employees can be discharged from work for any reason or no reason. However, there are a few exceptions to this doctrine that are used to protect employees from wrongful retaliation. These exceptions include common law protections and statutory protections. Statutory protections are laws that are enacted by the state’s legislature to address specific subject areas, e.g., workers’ compensation, whereas common law protections are laws that are created by courts to address subject areas that are not covered by enacted laws.

This is a summary of Oklahoma Whistleblower Laws, make sure to check out the Federal Whistleblower Laws as well.

Whistleblower Rights in Oklahoma

Common Law Protections for Whistleblowers in Oklahoma

Oklahoma has a public policy that is applied as an exception to the employment-at-will doctrine. Therefore, it is illegal for employers to discharge an employee for reasons that violate public policy. To determine whether an employee is eligible for protection under the state’s public policy, the courts usually rely on statutory protections, constitutional provisions, and prior judicial opinions. For example, if a statute endorses a worker’s right to file a workers’ compensation claim, an employer who discharges an employee in retaliation for exercising such a right may be found guilty of violating public policy. Generally, Oklahoma protects employees who engage in the following activities from wrongful discharge:

  • Reporting the employer’s illegal activities or conduct.
  • Filing a lawsuit concerning work-related injury against the employer’s customer.
  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim.
  • Testifying before a committee.
  • Refusing to violate the public health code.

Statutory Protections

General Whistleblower Protection for Whistleblowers in Oklahoma

State agencies are not allowed to take any disciplinary action against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Disclosing information concerning a violation of state or federal law, constitution, or rule.
  • Reporting a violation of state or federal law, constitution, rule or policy, mismanagement, waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial danger to public health and safety.
  • Discussing the operations and functions of the agency with the Governor, members of the Legislature, the print or electronic media, or other persons responsible for correcting a violation.
  • Taking any of the above actions without first notifying a supervisor of the employer or a representative of the employer.

Also, employees cannot be retaliated against for filing an appeal or testifying before the Oklahoma Merit Protection Commission. Okla. Stat. §. 74-840-2.5.

General Protection for Employees

Employers are not allowed to discharge, penalize, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  1. Filing a complaint with the employer, commissioner of labor, or authorized representative regarding the enforcement of the following laws:
  2. Discriminatory Wages
  3. Child Labor Laws
  4. Contracts Involving State Funds
  5. Inspection and Regulation of Factories
  6. Track Motor Cars
  7. Minimum Wages
  8. Physical Examinations
  1. Participating in the institution of a proceeding or investigation related to the violation of the above laws.
  2. Testifying or intending to testify in an investigation or proceeding under this statute.

Okla. Stat. §. 40-199.

Discrimination

It is considered a discriminatory practice by law for two or more persons to conspire to discriminate against another person in retaliation for:

  • Opposing a discriminatory practice.
  • Making a charge or filing a complaint under this statute.
  • Testifying or participating in a proceeding, investigation, or hearing under this statute.

Okla. Stat. §. 25-1601.

Persons With Disabilities

Providers or licensees for group homes for persons with developmental or physical disabilities are not allowed to harass, discharge, transfer, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Reporting the abuse, neglect, or exploitation of a resident.
  • Bringing an action or testifying in an action under this statute.
  • Filing a complaint under this statute.

Okla. Stat. §. 10-1430.8(F).

Long-Term Care Ombudsman

No person is allowed to retaliate against any resident or employee of a long-term care facility or other entity for filing a complaint or providing information to the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman. Okla. Stat. §. 63-1-2215.

Occupational Health and Safety

No person is allowed to discharge, discriminate, or take any adverse personnel action against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a complaint under this statute.
  • Instituting a proceeding under this statute.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding under this statute.
  • Exercising a right under this statute on behalf of himself, herself, or others.

Okla. Stat. §. 40-403.

Workers’ Compensation

Employers are not allowed to discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a claim under this act.
  • Retaining a lawyer for representation regarding a claim under this act.
  • Instituting or causing the institution of a proceeding under this act.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding under this act.

Okla. Stat. §. 85A-7.

Child Abuse or Neglect

No employer is allowed to in any way discriminate against an employee or any other individual in retaliation for reporting in good faith a suspected abuse or neglect of a child or testifying in a proceeding related to child abuse or neglect. Okla. Stat. §. 10A-1-2-101v1.

Whistleblower Retaliation Claims in Oklahoma

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, retaliation claims should be filed in the appropriate court within 2 years of the retaliatory action.

General Whistleblower Protection

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Oklahoma Merit Protection Commission within 60 days of the retaliatory action.

Discrimination

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission (HRC) within 180 days of the retaliatory action.

Whistleblower Hotlines in Oklahoma

To file a complaint with the Oklahoma Merit Protection Commission, call (405) 525-9144.

To file a complaint with the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission, call (405) 521-3441.

Whistleblower Retaliation and Violation Penalties in Oklahoma

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to the aggrieved employee for a combination or any of the following:

  • Reinstatement of the employee.
  • Payment of back pay.
  • Temporary or permanent injunctive relief.
  • Litigation costs.
  • Plus any other relief deemed appropriate.

Child Abuse or Neglect

Employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee or any other person may be liable to the aggrieved individual for:

  • Damages
  • Costs
  • Attorney’s fees

General Whistleblower Protection

Persons found guilty of carrying out unlawful retaliation against an employee may receive the following punishments:

  • Suspension without pay, demotion, or discharge
  • 6 months probation

Persons who knowingly violate this statute may also be discharged and be barred from being a state employee for a period of not less than 1 year and not more than 5 years.

General Protection for Employees

Employers who violate this statute may be found guilty of a misdemeanor. They may also be punished by a fine ranging from $50 to $200 or be imprisoned in the county jail for 5-30 days, or be punished by both fine and imprisonment.

Long-Term Care Ombudsman

Persons who violate this statute may be found guilty of a misdemeanor.

Occupational Health and Safety

Violators of this act may be found guilty of a misdemeanor upon conviction. They may also receive a cease and desist order to stop the violation. Also, each day that the violation continues will be considered a separate violation.

Workers’ Compensation

Employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Back pay not exceeding $100,000.
  • Costs, including reasonable attorney’s fees.

Interim earnings or amounts earnable with reasonable diligence by the aggrieved employee will be used to reduce the back pay otherwise allowable.

More Oklahoma Laws

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *