New workers’ comp law expands scope of potential retaliation claims

published in McAfee & Taft EmployerLINC Alert | February 12, 2014

By Charles S. Plumb

A little-noticed change to retaliation claims just went into effect. Beginning February 1, 2014, Oklahoma employers face greater exposure to claims of workers’ compensation retaliation.

Under our previous statute — 85 O.S. sec. 341 — Oklahoma employers could only be sued for workers’ compensation retaliation if they fired an employee because they had hired an attorney, filed a claim, testified in a workers’ comp matter, or sought workers’ comp benefits. On February 1, 2014, new workers’ comp reform legislation — 85A O.S. sec. 7 — went into effect. The new statute prohibits discrimination or retaliation of any type against an employee who has exercised rights under Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation law. Starting now, employees do not have to be fired to sue an employer for retaliation. They can accuse an employer of other forms of workers’ comp retaliation short of discharge, such as retaliatory demotions, assignments, raises, promotions, etc.