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Whistleblower Protections in Oklahoma: Know Your Rights

Whistleblower Rights in Oklahoma

In recent years, whistleblowing has become a crucial means of fighting corruption, protecting employees, and holding powerful individuals accountable. In light of this, Oklahoma has made significant strides in protecting whistleblowers through both common law and statutory protections.

Common Law Protections for Whistleblowers in Oklahoma

If an employer violates public policy, wrongfully terminates an employee, or attempts to interfere with an employee’s workers’ compensation claim, the employee has the right to blow the whistle on these activities without fear of retaliation. Oklahoma, like many other states, recognizes common law protections for whistleblowers who perform these actions.

Public Policy

An employer’s violation of public policy can provide employees with whistleblower protection in Oklahoma. For example, if an employer asks an employee to commit illegal activities, and the employee refuses and reports the issue to management or a government agency, the employer cannot retaliate against the employee for their actions.

Wrongful Discharge

In Oklahoma, if an employer terminates an employee for completing a lawful act, such as filing a grievance or a workers’ compensation claim, the employee has been wrongfully discharged. An employee who reports these types of actions is entitled to whistleblower protections.

Workers’ Compensation Claim

Employees of Oklahoma are also protected under whistleblower rights when reporting an injury in the workplace or filing a workers’ compensation claim. Employers cannot retaliate against these employees for having reported these workplace issues.

Statutory Protections

In addition to common law protections, Oklahoma provides statutory protections, adding even stronger whistleblower protections for the state’s workers.

State Agencies

If an employee makes a protected whistleblower disclosure to a state agency alleging the violation of state or federal laws, mismanagement, waste, or abuse of public funds, the employee cannot face retaliation, including termination, demotion, suspension, or any other type of adverse personnel action.

Violation of State or Federal Law

In Oklahoma, an employee may file a whistleblowing claim if they have reasonable cause to believe a violation of state or federal law has occurred. This applies to any public or private sector employee.

Retaliation for whistleblowing activity is illegal. Mismanagement, Waste of Funds, or Abuse of Authority

Protected disclosures can also be made by any employee who has direct knowledge or evidence of mismanagement, waste of funds, or abuse of authority.

Oklahoma law prohibits retaliation against whistleblowers for such disclosures.

Discriminatory Wages

Employees are also afforded protection under Oklahoma law should they report discriminatory practices in regards to wages.

Child Labor Laws

If an employee reports any violation of child labor laws in Oklahoma, then they are protected under whistleblower protections.

Physical Examinations

Protections also extend to employees who report any violation of physical examination requirements for certain job positions.

Long-Term Care Ombudsman

The state’s long-term care ombudsman scheme is yet another area where Oklahoma provides whistleblower protections. Any employee who reports wrongdoing by an employer of a long-term care facility, such as abuse, neglect, or mistreatment of a patient, is protected under whistleblowing law.

Occupational Health and Safety

Whistleblower protections also apply to employees who report workplace safety concerns, including safety violations, injuries, or illnesses. Oklahoma law prohibits retaliation against whistleblowing related to occupational health and safety.

Workers’ Compensation

Employees who report or plan to report a workers’ compensation claim are protected under Oklahoma whistleblower law. Employers cannot retaliate against an employee for exercising their legal right to file a claim.

Child Abuse or Neglect

Employees who report child abuse or neglect in Oklahoma are also afforded whistleblowing protections.

Whistleblower Retaliation Claims in Oklahoma

General Whistleblower Protection

Oklahoma has established the State Merit Protection Commission, which oversees all state employees and investigations protecting whistleblowers. Any employee who feels they have been unfairly retaliated against after making a protected disclosure can file a claim within two years.

Discrimination

In addition to general protections, Oklahoma’s Human Rights Commission provides specific protections for employees who experience discrimination after reporting a protected disclosure. The employee has 180 days to file a claim if they believe they have been the subject of discrimination in response to whistleblowing.

Conclusion

Oklahoma state laws provide significant protections to whistleblowers and offers protections against retaliation for employees who report violations of workplace laws. Employers must be aware of these protections and comply with the law.

Employees can report workplace violations with confidence, knowing that Oklahoma state law favors their right to doing so.

Whistleblower Hotlines in Oklahoma

The Oklahoma Merit Protection Commission and Oklahoma Human Rights Commission both have hotlines available for whistleblowers to report workplace violations and seek assistance.

Oklahoma Merit Protection Commission Hotline

The Oklahoma Merit Protection Commission oversees the state’s civil service system and provides support for whistleblowers. Employees who make a protected disclosure can contact the Commission’s hotline to report any retaliation they may have faced.

The hotline provides a confidential means for employees to report employer misconduct and obtain assistance.

Oklahoma Human Rights Commission Hotline

The Oklahoma Human Rights Commission is tasked with enforcing the state’s antidiscrimination laws. If an employee feels they have experienced discrimination after filing a protected disclosure, they can contact the Commission’s hotline for assistance.

The hotline can provide employees with legal services, mediation, and other forms of support.

Whistleblower Retaliation and Violation Penalties in Oklahoma

General Whistleblower Protection

Under Oklahoma law, employees who are retaliated against for whistleblowing activities are afforded a range of remedies. These remedies include reinstatement, back pay, and injunctive relief.

Legal fees and litigation costs may also be included. Employers that are found to have violated whistleblower laws may face misdemeanor charges.

Child Abuse or Neglect

Oklahoma’s anti-retaliation laws provide for both monetary and non-monetary relief for employees who report child abuse or neglect in good faith. Successful employees can receive damages for retaliation as well as attorney fees and court costs.

Occupational Health and Safety

Employers who retaliate against employees for whistleblowing about workplace safety violations may be criminally prosecuted by the state. Violation of this law constitutes a misdemeanor offense, and the employer may be subject to a cease and desist order.

Workers’ Compensation

Employers that retaliate against employees for filing a workers’ compensation claim may face significant penalties. Successful employees are entitled to back pay, court costs, and attorney fees.

Employers may also face civil charges and additional fines from the state.

Conclusion

Whistleblowing is a courageous action, and Oklahoma law provides important protections for employees who choose to do so. These protections include statutory and common law protections, as well as hotlines for whistleblowers to seek assistance.

Additionally, employers who retaliate against employees for whistleblowing are subject to legal penalties, including monetary damages, misdemeanor charges, and attorney fees. In conclusion, whistleblowing is a cornerstone of accountability, and Oklahoma law offers robust whistleblower protections for its employees.

These protections include both common law and statutory protections, as well as hotlines for whistleblowers to seek assistance. Employers who retaliate against whistleblowers are subject to legal penalties, including monetary damages, misdemeanor charges, and attorney fees.

As such, employees who choose to report employer misconduct can do so with confidence, knowing that Oklahoma law is on their side. Whistleblowing is an essential tool in creating a fairer, more transparent society, and these protections provide a crucial defense against employer retaliation.

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