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How can I file a workplace discrimination claim in Oklahoma?

Discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, age, gender or disability is illegal under both Oklahoma and federal law. However, the way to receive redress for such discrimination may vary, depending on the type of discrimination that occurred.

One can file a claim for discrimination either with the state agency, called the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission (OHRC), or with the federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC). These agencies attempt to work together on claims if you indicate in your filing with one that you want to cross-file with the other. Some believe, though, that the EEOC will conduct a more thorough investigation, and therefore suggest filing with them first. The filing with the EEOC must be made within 300 days of the discrimination, but within 180 days if filing with the OHRC.

One quirk of Oklahoma law is that it does not provide for a private right of action for discrimination on the basis of anything other than disability. This means that only the state agency, the OHRC, can file a court claim for discrimination under state law in cases other than those involving disability discrimination. However, there is no such bar to the filing of a private court action under federal statute. To file under federal law, though, a claimant must exhaust his or her administrative remedies, meaning the case must have been closed by the EEOC before filing. Any federal claim for discrimination needs to be filed within 90 days of the EEOC issuing a "Notice of Right to Sue," or a "Dismissal and Notice of Rights."

As can be seen, the interweaving of state and federal law in this area can be confusing for many. This is why it may be a good idea to consult an Oklahoma discrimination attorney, if you believe you have suffered race discrimination or had any other civil rights violated in the workplace.

Source: Workplacefairness.org, "Filing a Discrimination Claim - Oklahoma," accessed on Nov. 11, 2014

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