Oklahoma Law Limits Damages for Wrongful Termination Plaintiffs

In previous posts, we have discussed the various reasons why it is unlawful for Oklahoma employers to discriminate against employees or prospective employees. We have also touched on various potential avenues of redress for individuals that believe they have been illegally discriminated against, including the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC, the state Attorney General's Office of Civil Rights Enforcement and litigation in court. This week, we will look at what a plaintiff might expect to receive if he or she wins a discrimination case in an Oklahoma court.

In 2011, the state legislature rewrote the state's laws to abolish 'common law' causes of action for employment discrimination and to make all such lawsuits in the state be based upon the state's statutory causes of action. In doing so, the Oklahoma also limited the remedies that can be had for prevailing in such suits.

The statute, section 25-1350, paragraph G, states that an employer who has been found to have illegally discriminated against an employee or prospective employee may be enjoined from doing so in the future, and may face an injunction to hire or rehire the employee. An employee who was wrongfully terminated may receive back pay and some other amount as liquidated damages, although the employee's interim earnings or reasonable possible earnings may reduce this amount. The plaintiff may also receive reasonable attorney's fees and costs.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld this section of law limiting recovery as constitutional under the state constitution last year. While plaintiffs in the state can no longer expect punitive damages or those for infliction of emotional distress, as they could under common law, discrimination suits are still very important for holding employers responsible for their illegal acts.

Anyone with questions about an employment discrimination claim may want to consider ways he or she could become more informed. Seeking legal guidance could provide individuals with information about his or her rights and possible actions they could take.