About a month ago, this blog discussed the fact that when it comes to filing an employment discrimination suit in a court of law, there may be a requirement to 'exhaust all administrative remedies.' In the context of federal court, this means getting a notice of right to sue from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. However, as we pointed out then, the State of Oklahoma also has an administrative agency that handles employment discrimination complaints, known as the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission. So, are there reasons to choose one system over the other?
There is a feeling in some circles, at least for certain types of discrimination, that the federal EEOC does a better quality of investigative work, possibly due to having access to more resources than the state-level apparatus. It should be noted, however, that due to a cooperation agreement between the agencies, a person who has been the victim of employment discrimination can cross-file complaints with both agencies with regard to the same discrimination case. The victim must just give the agency with which the complaint is filed notice that he or she wants to cross-file the complaint with the other agency.
When it comes to filing an actual lawsuit in the judicial system, however, there are some more differences to take into consideration. First, to file a federal suit, the victim of discrimination must have gotten the notice of right to sue from the EEOC. When that is done, then any type of workplace problem that falls under the federal anti-discrimination statute may constitute a cause of action. However, in Oklahoma, with the exception of discrimination on the basis of disability, only the OHRC can file a suit in state court. This means that the victim may not have his or her own lawyer prosecuting the suit.
Whether filing in the federal or state systems is in one's best interest is always going to dependent on the specific facts of each case. Such decisions should not be based on general information. An experienced Oklahoma employment attorney has handled many cases in both systems and is likely to know the advantages and disadvantages of both. Anyone who wishes for further information is welcome to visit our website on workplace discrimination.