Gavel to Gavel: Don't hide the ball

The Journal Record
By Adam Childers
Nov. 10, 2011

It’s that time of year when lawyers cram in last-minute attendance at seminars seeking their full allotment of mandatory continuing legal education credits, which is why I found myself at a national conference last week listening to speakers drone on about employment law issues as I wondered when lunch would be served.

There are a couple of states in which employers are required by statute to respond to a written request from a terminated employee and provide a written explanation of every reason why the employee was fired, with civil penalties for failing to do so.

No such law exists here in Oklahoma for private employers. Because Oklahoma is an “at-will” state, employers can choose to provide an employee with no reason at all for a dismissal.

It is easy to see why an employer might omit the real reasons for a termination. But an employer is almost always better off when it is forthright and comprehensive in its oral and written explanations to an employee of the reasons for discharge. Failing to frame the real reasons for a firing means that the employee loses the future chance to fill in the blanks with their own explanations. This is often the first step to proving that an employer’s stated reasons for a firing are just a pretext for a more nefarious motive.

Oklahoma employers should not wait for a piece of legislation to compel them to disclose to employees all reasons for their termination. Doing otherwise only serves to leave employers at the mercy of twisted memories and competing interests.

Adam W. Childers is a director with Crowe & Dunlevy’s Labor and Employment Section in Oklahoma City. He can be reached at (405) 235-7741 or by e-mail at

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