McAfee & Taft shareholder and employment attorney Charlie Plumb was interviewed by The Journal Record about a recent decision by the Oklahoma Supreme Court that further expands employer exposure in discrimination cases.
On February 24, 2009, the State’s highest court issued its opinion in Shirazi v. Childtime Learning Center, Inc., casting additional light on the so-called “public policy” wrongful discharge claim under Oklahoma law. Reversing a litany of cases extending nearly 20 years, the current court has declared that “public policy” tort claims should be available to plaintiffs alleging wrongful discharge based upon race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or handicap. This ruling expands upon the holding of Kruchowski, which provided the same “public policy” claim to purported victims of age-based wrongful termination.
“Basically, Shirazi says that now, potentially, employers will be facing wrongful-discharge cases any time there is alleged employment discrimination,” Plumb said.
Plumb told the Journal Record that the importance for employers in this case is that unlike Oklahoma law, federal employment law sets caps on punitive and emotional distress damages. Under Shirazi, an employer could be sued in state court rather than federal court, and potentially be subject to uncapped damages.
McAfee & Taft distributed an Employment Law Alert on February 25th that provides additional details and background regarding the court's Shirazi decision. You can download a PDF of that alert or read it online here.