What is 'indirect discrimination' in Oklahoma employment law?
This blog has previously discussed the fact that Oklahoma is generally an "at will" employment state, but that it is still illegal for employers to discriminate in hiring and promotion of certain categories of people, or based upon certain characteristics. These include race, religion, gender and disability. So, without some bona fide occupational requirement, it would be illegal discrimination for an employer to advertise for "males only," or look to hire only white people. This seems pretty obvious, and it would to employers as well. Most will not make the mistake of explicitly discriminating based on a protected class. But what happens if an employer creates conditions that, in practice, disqualifies a group of people?
The Oklahoma Bar Association, the entity responsible for regulating the state's legal field, points out that certain job requirements may be considered "indirect discrimination" under certain conditions. An employer that conditions hiring or advancement upon criteria that affect groups differently may be subject to closer scrutiny to determine if the criteria is actually illegal workplace discrimination. The most obvious example here is height and/or weight requirements for a position.
These restrictive requirements may effectively disqualify males, females, or minority groups, depending upon the actual criteria used. Of course, an employer might be able to show that there is a good reason for such requirements, but the burden may be on the employer to prove what that reason is.
As can be seen, discrimination in employment is not always cut-and-dry. Employers may create criteria, whether intentionally or unintentionally, that cause discrimination in the hiring process. If you think you have been discriminated against, or you have questions about your company's policies, you may want to consider contacting an experienced Oklahoma employment law professional.