Oklahoma’s Law on Workers’ Compensation Retaliation Undergoes Another Change Increasing Potential Liability for Employers

Oklahoma’s law on workers’ compensation retaliation claims has undergone several changes since the 2014 move from the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Act to the Oklahoma Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act (OAWCA).   Since the OAWCA was first enacted, there have been many challenges made and many questions raised.  At the end of May, the law was tweaked when the Oklahoma Legislature amended Section 7 – the part of the law that governs claims by current  or former employees against employers for retaliation.  Because of all the confusion, it might be time to run through the three major changes and explain the state of the law – at least the state of the law as it exists at this moment in time. Continue reading

Even the Appearance of Setting an Employee up for Failure can be Costly in Litigation

In lawsuits, the facts matter.  Sierra High School employed Patti Hartman as its assistant principal.  Dr. Griffen was the principal and Hartman’s direct supervisor.  On November 4, 2014, Hartman suffered some injuries requiring her to miss work intermittently in November of 2014 and January 2015.

On January 14, 2015, Dr. Griffen met with her to discuss his intent to place her on a “Growth Improvement Plan.”  She was ultimately placed on that Plan on February 9, 2015.  It was during the February 9, 2015, meeting that Hartman said she would “formally” apply for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which she did.  She applied for and was granted FMLA leave from February 11 through April 9, 2015.  However, because she ran out of paid leave, she returned to work early, on March 20, 2015. Continue reading

Oklahoma Supreme Court Answers the Question of Where Do Worker’s Comp Retaliation Claims Get Resolved

There has been a battle between attorneys since the Oklahoma legislature adopted the Oklahoma Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act (AWCA) February 1, 2014.  Why?  Well for years prior to that date, Oklahoma had the Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA).  Under the WCA, a traditional worker’s comp claim (one in which an employee sought compensation for injuries) was determined by the Worker’s Compensation Court, and claims of retaliation under that law were resolved in state district court.

In 2014, the Oklahoma legislature repealed the WCA and passed the AWCA.

With the passage of the AWCA, the Worker’s Compensation Commission was born.  The Commission would hear traditional “comp claims”.  It was also given “exclusive jurisdiction” to hear claims of discrimination or retaliation based upon a person exercising rights under the AWCA.  If a person claims discrimination or retaliation for the exercise of rights under the AWCA, that person must file with the Commission (not a court) and the Commission, without a jury, is to determine the fate of the claim.

Suddenly, everyone was very concerned about whether the claim would fall under the WCA (a court proceeding with a jury) or the AWCA (heard before the Commission with no jury). Continue reading