Are Independent Contractors Protected From Discrimination and Harassment?


Posted by: Chris

Every worker in the state of Oklahoma is classified as either an independent contractor or an employee. This classification is important because it affects the worker’s tax payments, benefits, and job duties. How you are classified can also determine the rights you are entitled to in the workplace. Are independent contractors given the same protections from discrimination and harassment as employees? Here’s what you should know:

What is an Independent Contractor?

An independent contractor is an individual that is contracted to perform work for an entity in exchange for compensation. Employers cannot tell an independent contractor where or when to work or how to perform the contracted job duties. Therefore, independent contractors are given more freedom, however they are not given the same benefits that are typically given to employees. For example, independent contractors are not eligible for health, retirement, or other benefits that employers typically offer their employees.

Working as an independent contractor is becoming increasingly popular. According to NPR, about 20% of workers in the U.S. are contract workers that are providing temporary and specific services to their clients. Many people are drawn to the flexible hours and freedom of being an independent contractor. But, if you are planning on becoming a contract worker, it’s important to understand your rights when it comes to discrimination and harassment.

Discrimination and Harassment Laws in Oklahoma

Both federal and state laws prohibit discrimination and harassment in the workplace. In Oklahoma, the law states that it is illegal for an employer to discriminate or harass employees because of their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, genetic information, or disability. The law specifically defines “employer” as an entity that pays a salary or wages to one or more individual in exchange for their work performance. Employment agencies and labor organizations are also required to comply with these discrimination and harassment laws.

But, it’s the definition of “employee” that determines whether or not an independent contractor is covered by this law. Unfortunately, the law explicitly states that independent contractors are not covered under the state’s discrimination and harassment laws. This means independent contractors cannot file a complaint against their employer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if they have been discriminated against or harassed at work.

Independent contractors should discuss their situation with the experienced attorneys at Armstrong & Vaught, P.L.C. We help independent contractors explore all legal options so they can recover the compensation they deserve. Call us now at 918-582-2500, toll free at (800) 722-8880, or contact us online for a free consultation with a skilled attorney.