Your workplace can be a source of fulfillment and pride. However, if you are facing discrimination based on your race, going into the office can suddenly feel like traversing through enemy territory. Even though you love what you do, you just cannot stomach those awful jokes anymore.
There is hope. The law protects you from this kind of treatment.
Federal and state discrimination protection
In Oklahoma, employees receive protection from discrimination on both the federal and the state level. Federal civil rights guarantee that all individuals deserve equal treatment and should not be discriminated against, based on traits like race or gender. These rights also apply to all states.
According to the Oklahoma Attorney General, The Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act protects against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation. Oklahoma law also states employers must not discriminate based race/color, religion, gender, national origin, age, genetic information or disability.
Filing a discrimination claim
If you are facing racial discrimination at work, you can file a claim through the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission (OHRC) or through the federal agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The commissions share work, so you do not need to file with both agencies. If you wish, you simply indicate you want to cross-file with both agencies.
There is a timeframe to file your employment discrimination claim. If you are filing with the OHRC, you have 180 days (or about 6 months) after the incident occurred to file your claim. If you file with EEOC, you have 300 days (or about 10 months) to submit your claim.
Filing your complaint through the OHRC can prevent you from filing your claim in court. If you want to avoid hiring an attorney, this may be the way to proceed. However, if the case is not resolved through either agency, you may want to consult with an attorney experienced in employment discrimination.
Pursuing a court case
Under Oklahoma law, you cannot file an employment discrimination lawsuit based on racial discrimination at the state level. There is no "private right of action" protecting discrimination claims for race, gender, age or religious belief. Only disability discrimination receives protection at the state level. That does not mean you are out of options, however. Since federal law also protects you, your attorney may choose to pursue action in federal court.
If this sounds complex and confusing, it is because legal matters are often complex and confusing. An attorney may help clarify the situation. More importantly, an attorney will fight on your behalf to hold your employer accountable for any discriminatory behavior.