Oklahoma Supreme Court Extends Public Policy Tort Liability to All Employers

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For years, Oklahoma courts have agreed that small employers — defined as employers with fewer than 15 employees — cannot be sued for terminations that allegedly violate Oklahoma’s public policy against employment discrimination. The small employer exemption was adopted from federal employment law, which almost universally exempts smaller employers from liability. The stated purpose for the federal small employer exemption is that Congress (and until now the Oklahoma courts) does not want to impose the type of liability (and attorney fees) on small employers that could result in bankruptcy from even a single case; it is a pragmatic balancing of civil rights and social policy against economic policy. That protection, however, now has been stripped away by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, leaving Oklahoma employers of any size at risk of being sued for terminations that allegedly violate Oklahoma’s public policy against employment discrimination.

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