Individuals have a right to work without being subjected to harassment. Various federal laws provide protection from harassment based on membership in a protected class, such as minorities and individuals with disabilities. However, in Oklahoma, state law also provides wide protection from harassment in the workplace. Understanding what state law says about workplace harassment could help you better protect yourself from others' harassing conduct.
Oklahoma’s Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, gender, color, national origin, and disability. Contractors and vendors who provide the state with goods and services are also subject to the act’s provisions. Any behavior, whether it’s an action or a verbal threat, is prohibited by the law if it creates a hostile work environment or interferes with work performance of an individual who belongs to one of the protected classes mentioned in the act.
Oklahoma’s House Bill 1804 made it illegal to harass an individual using any electronic device such as a phone or computer. This is significant in a workplace setting, where people often communicate using electronic means more than face-to-face. Any behavior that creates a hostile work environment is covered, such as threats and sexual remarks made by email, phone and even instant and text messaging.
Oklahoma legislators added language to its penal code prohibiting stalking. While often this occurs outside the workplace, stalking is any behavior meant to harass or threaten an individual. In a workplace setting, stalking may include being consistently followed by a coworker when you go to the restroom or break room as a way of menacing you.
Blackmail, also prohibited by Oklahoma law, includes threatening to accuse someone of any conduct that would make the accused person feel disgraced, and threatening to expose any fact that would bring ridicule or contempt upon the person who the fact relates to. In a workplace setting, this might include having a coworker threaten to tell a supervisor that you did something wrong unless you perform some task for the coworker in exchange for his silence.