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Your Rights Filing a Discrimination Claim - Oklahoma

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Employment discrimination is the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of other people at work, because of their membership in a legally protected category such as race, sex, age, or religion.  Each state has passed laws and rules to protect your workplace rights: this page covers Oklahoma employment discrimination.  The purpose of the Oklahoma antidiscrimination law is to protect workers in Ohio from unlawful discrimination in employment. Read below to learn more about Ohio employment law and how the law protects you.

1. What kinds of discrimination are against state law in Oklahoma?

Oklahoma law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or handicap (disability).

As noted more fully below, disability cases are treated differently under state law because private lawsuits are allowed on disability discrimination grounds only.

2. How do I file a discrimination claim in Oklahoma?

In Oklahoma, a discrimination claim can be filed either with the state administrative agency, the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission (OHRC), or the federal administrative agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The two agencies have what is called a “work-sharing agreement,” which means that the agencies cooperate with each other to process claims. Filing a claim with both agencies is unnecessary, as long as you indicate to one of the agencies that you want it to “cross-file” the claim with the other agency. However, some Oklahoma attorneys recommend that you file with the EEOC first, because of the comparative quality of their investigations.

Filing with the OHRC is not required to pursue a discrimination claim directly in court. If you do not have an attorney, however, you may wish to see whether the OHRC can assist you in resolving your claim without filing in court. OHRC complaints must be filed within 180 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against.

To file a claim with the OHRC, contact the nearest office. More information about filing a claim with the OHRC can be found at the OHRC website.

Oklahoma City Office 
Jim Thorpe Building, Room 480 
2101 North Lincoln Boulevard 
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105 
Phone: (405) 521-2360 
Fax: 405) 522-3635 
TDD: (405) 522-3993

Tulsa Field Office 
State Office Building, Room 302 
440 South Houston 
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74127 
Phone: (918) 581-2733 
Fax: (918) 581-2940

To file a claim with the EEOC, contact your local EEOC office. More information about filing a claim with the EEOC can be found at the EEOC Filing a Charge page.

EEOC's Oklahoma Area Office 
210 Park Avenue, Suite 1350 
Oklahoma City, OK 73102 
Phone: 405) 231-4911 
TTY: 405) 231-5745

EEOC has launched an online service that enables individuals who have filed a discrimination charge to check the status of their charge online.  This service provides a portal to upload and receive documents and communicate with the EEOC, allowing for a faster transmitting period.  Those who have filed a charge can access information about their charge at their convenience, and allow entities that have been charged to receive the same information on the status of the charge.  All of the EEOC offices now use the Digital Charge System.  If you file on or after September 2, 2016, the Online Charge Status System is available for use.  The system is not available for charges filed prior to this date or for charges filed with EEOC's state and local Fair Employment Practices Agencies. The system can be accessed at the EEOC website. If you do not have internet or need language assistance, you may call the toll-free number at 1-800-669-4000. For additional help, you may also call the toll free number to retrieve the same information provided in the Online Charge Status System.

3. What are my time deadlines?

If you choose to file a discrimination claim with one of these administrative agencies, do not delay in contacting the OHRC or EEOC. There are strict time limits in which charges of employment discrimination must be filed. In order for these agencies to act on your behalf, you must file with the OHRC (or cross-file with the EEOC) within 180 days or with the EEOC (or cross-file with the state agency) within 300 days of the date you believe you were discriminated against. However, as you might have other legal claims with shorter deadlines, do not wait to file your claim until your time limit is close to expiring. You may wish to consult with an attorney prior to filing your claim, if possible. But if you are unable to find an attorney who will assist you, it is not necessary to have an attorney to file a discrimination claim with the state and federal administrative agencies.

4. What happens after I file a charge with the EEOC?

When your charge is filed, the EEOC will give you a copy of your charge with your charge number. Within 10 days, the EEOC will also send a notice and a copy of the charge to the employer. At that point, the EEOC may decide to do one of the following:

  • Ask both you and the employer to take part in a mediation program
  • Ask the employer to provide a written answer to your charge and answer questions related to your claim, then your charge will be given to an investigator
  • Dismiss the claim if your charge was not filed in time or if the EEOC does not have jurisdiction

If the EEOC decides to investigate your charge, the EEOC may interview witnesses and gather documents.  Once the investigation is complete, they will let you and the employer know the result. If they decides that discrimination did not occur then they will send you a “Notice of Right to Sue.” This notice gives you permission to file a lawsuit in a court of law. If the EEOC determines that discrimination occurred then they will try to reach a voluntary settlement with the employer. If a settlement cannot reached, your case will be referred to the EEOC’s legal staff (or the Department of Justice in certain cases), who will decide whether or not the agency should file a lawsuit. If the EEOC decides not to file a lawsuit then they will give you a “Notice of Right to Sue.” `                         

How long the investigation takes depends on a lot of different things, including the amount of information that needs to be gathered and analyzed. On average, it takes the EEOC nearly 6 months to investigate a charge. A charge is often able to settle faster through mediation (usually in less than 3 months).

5. How can I or my attorney pursue a claim in court in Oklahoma?

If your case is successfully resolved by an administrative agency, it may not be necessary to hire an attorney or file a lawsuit. If your case is not resolved by the OHRC or EEOC, however, you may need to pursue your claim in court.

A federal employment discrimination case cannot be filed in court until the claim is filed with the EEOC, as discussed above, and the EEOC dismisses the charge. This process is called “exhaustion” of your administrative remedy.

There is no “private right of action” under Oklahoma law for discrimination claims on the basis of race, sex, age, or religious belief, which means that individuals cannot file a lawsuit in court under Oklahoma law. These claims can be filed in court only by the OHRC. There is, however, a “private right of action” under Oklahoma law for discrimination claims on the basis of disability, so individuals can file a disability discrimination lawsuit in court under Oklahoma law. Filing a charge of discrimination with the OHRC first is not required to file such a lawsuit in court.

Because Oklahoma law does not permit a court action to be filed under state law, except for disability discrimination claims, many Oklahoma attorneys choose to file employment discrimination cases in federal court. A case filed in state court using federal law may be “removed” to federal court by the employer because it involves a federal statute, such as Title VII or the ADEA.

The EEOC must first issue a “Dismissal and Notice of Rights” or “Notice of Right to Sue,” (Form 161) before you can file a case based upon your federal claim. A lawsuit based on your federal discrimination claim must be filed in federal or state court within 90 days of the date you receive the notice. (Be sure to mark down that date when you receive it.) If you have received one of these EEOC letters, do not delay consulting with an attorney.

A claim for disability discrimination under state law or wrongful discharge must be brought in Oklahoma state court within 2 years of the date you believe you were discriminated against.

These deadlines are called the “statute of limitations.” If your lawsuit is not filed by the deadline, then you may lose your ability to pursue a discrimination case.