Est. 1964

State of Oklahoma House of Representatives

Having represented many of you in employment matters over the past several years, I wanted to alert you to a couple of significant changes effecting Oklahoma employment law that we made in the 151 session of the 54th Oklahoma Legislature. I believe that you will find these changes most helpful to employers.

First, on May 6, 2012, Governor Fallin signed Senate Bill 1062 which changed Oklahoma's current court-based system to an administrative structure, which should substantially reduce the cost of doing business in Oklahoma. The administrative structure is designed to make the process more predictable and less adversarial by minimizing the need for attorney involvement. Finally, the measure will allow Oklahoma employers to develop an alternative dispute resolution program subject to the Federal Administration Act. In sum, the changes to Oklahoma Workers Compensation system were comprehensive and should result in both cost savings and return injured workers to work more quickly.

Second in my law practice, I have had the honor of representing several of you in disputes with current and former employees. Based on my experience one of the most frustrating experiences for employers has been defending claims for unemployment benefits by dismissed workers. Historically, it has been very difficult for Oklahoma employers to defend such claims due to the definition of "misconduct" as adopted by the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission ("OESC"). The OESC's definition of "misconduct" (which was required to prove a "for cause" termination and denial of benefits) required the employer to show that the terminated employee's conduct was an intentional /deliberate violation or disregard of rules or a "high level" of carelessness or negligence. In sum, the definition of "misconduct" made defending claims for unemployment benefits extremely difficult and quite frustrating for employers.

Due to the definition of "misconduct" adopted by the OESC, through the Oklahoma Supreme Court's decision in Vester v. The Board of Review of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, Representative John Echols and I worked on redefining "misconduct" more broadly to include:

This new definition of misconduct was signed into law and will take effect November 1, 2013, and it is my sincere hope and belief that it will give employers a fighting chance to defend claims for unemployment benefits.

If you have any questions about this legislation or any other matter, please feel free to contact me.

Representative Terry O'Donnell

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