The Oklahoma Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act makes it illegal for employers to fire employees after filing workers’ compensation claims in good faith due to on-the-job injuries. State law also prevents employers from firing employees who hire workers’ compensation attorneys to represent them or testify on behalf of an injured co-worker. Nonetheless, employers still illegally deny workers’ compensation claims and fire injured employees in some circumstances.
Filing a Retaliation Claim Against Your Former Employer
Suppose your employer retaliates by firing you after you have filed a workers’ compensation claim, consulted an attorney, or testified in a co-worker’s case. In that case, you may have a legal cause of action against your employer. Oklahoma Statutes § 85A-7 provides that in all violations that occur after May 28, 2019, affected employees must file their causes of action in district court, where they have a right to a jury trial.
Employees must prove that their former employers violated the statute by illegally retaliating against them concerning workers’ compensation by a preponderance of the evidence. They have the burden of proving a violation on the part of the employer.
If the employee successfully proves their claim, an employer can be liable for reasonable damages, both actual and punitive, suffered by the employee as a result of the violation. Actual damages can include court costs and attorneys’ fees necessary for filing the lawsuit. However, punitive damages awards may not exceed $100,000.
Other Types of Retaliation
Firing you is not the only type of retaliation that an employer might take against an employee who has suffered a work-related injury and filed a workers’ compensation claim. Oklahoma law prohibits all forms of retaliation by employers relating to workers’ compensation claims, not just job terminations. Other examples of retaliation may include:
- Demoting you to a less senior position or one with fewer responsibilities
- Lowering your pay
- Reducing your hours
- Forcing you to resign
- Taking any adverse action against you concerning your employment
Proving Your Retaliation Claim
Retaliation cases are not always straightforward or easy to prove. In many cases, the employer will claim another reason for your termination to avoid allegations of retaliation. However, an employer can still fire you for reasons other than a pending workers’ compensation claim. For instance, if you commit a serious safety violation at work, like showing up under the influence of alcohol or drugs, your employer likely can fire you despite any workers’ compensation claim that you might have.
Likewise, if the employer must lay off part of its workforce due to an economic downturn, and you are one of several laid-off employees, the employer likely can do so. In other words, the employer can still fire or lay you off for valid reasons that have nothing to do with your injuries or your workers’ compensation claim.
Contact Us Today at Armstrong & Vaught, P.L.C.
We have years of experience handling your employment, workers’ compensation, and Social Security disability legal needs. We provide the legal knowledge and guidance that you need when facing these types of legal problems. Call us at (918) 582-2500 or visit us online to see how we can assist you.