Oklahoma Labor Laws: A Complete Guide to Wages, Breaks, Overtime, and More (2024)

In this article, we’ll dive deep into Oklahoma’s labor laws, with details on all the important aspects of the state’s regulations on your employees.
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Having a thorough and well-informed understanding of labor laws helps maintain a safe, legal, and harmonious workplace, especially for business owners and leaders in the construction industry.

These regulations, covering wages, breaks, overtime, and more, serve as the foundation of workforce management, ensuring fair treatment for employees and safeguarding businesses against any legal challenges. 

As part of our extensive 50-state series, this guide focuses on Oklahoma, offering a detailed overview of the state’s labor laws. We’ll provide a thorough understanding of Oklahoma’s labor laws, equipping you with the knowledge needed to ensure your business operates within legal bounds, preventing potential penalties and legal repercussions.

Meals and Breaks in Oklahoma

Oklahoma does not mandate employers to provide meal or rest breaks for adult employees 18 years and older. Any decision to offer breaks during the workday is left to the employer’s discretion. 

However, there are specific provisions for minor employees under 16. If these younger employees work more than five consecutive hours, they must be given an uninterrupted meal or rest period of at least 30 minutes​​.

Although Oklahoma state law is silent on breaks for adults, federal rules fill in some of the gaps here. According to federal guidelines, although not required to provide breaks, if employers choose to provide them, any breaks lasting less than 20 minutes must be paid. 

Meal periods typically lasting 30 minutes or more do not need compensation, provided the employee is completely relieved from duty. If the employee is not fully relieved of their duties during these periods, the time is considered work time and must be compensated​​.

Leave and Paid Time Off (PTO) in Oklahoma

Vacation Leave

Oklahoma employers are not required to provide vacation leave, whether paid or unpaid. If an employer offers vacation leave, they must adhere to established policies or employment contracts. 

Sick Leave

Similarly, Oklahoma does not require employers to provide sick leave. However, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act or FMLA offers protections for eligible employees, allowing for up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for specific family and medical reasons, including illnesses. Employers may offer sick leave benefits at their discretion, but they must follow their own policies or employment contracts if they do so​​​​.

Family and Medical Leave

While Oklahoma does not have state-specific family and medical leave laws beyond what is provided for under FMLA, eligible employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons, with job protection and continuation of health insurance coverage​​.

Overtime Regulations in Oklahoma

Overtime pay in Oklahoma is one and a half times an employee’s normal hourly wage for any hours worked over 40 in a single workweek. If the state minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, the overtime minimum is therefore $10.88 per hour​​.

Eligibility for Overtime

  • Non-Exempt Employees: Most hourly employees who earn less than $455 per week ($23,660 annually) and work in non-exempt industries are eligible for overtime compensation​​​​.
  • Tipped Employees: For those receiving tips, such as waitstaff, the overtime rate is 1.5 times their regular wage for every overtime hour worked. Employers cannot use the tip credit when calculating overtime pay; instead, the full minimum wage rate is considered​​.
  • Salaried Employees: Certain salaried employees may also be eligible for overtime pay, depending on their job duties, salary level, and the number of hours their salary is intended to cover​​.

Exemptions from Overtime

Employees in executive, administrative, professional, and outside sales positions who meet specific criteria, including earning at least $455 per week, are typically exempt from overtime pay requirements. Other exemptions may apply to farm workers, domestic workers, government employees, and certain salespersons​​​​.

Calculation of Overtime

Hourly and Salaried Workers: For hourly workers, overtime is calculated based on their hourly rate. For salaried employees, the calculation involves determining an hourly rate from their salary and then applying the 1.5 times rate for hours worked beyond 40​​.

Commission-Based Workers: Employees earning commissions must have their total weekly earnings (hourly wage plus commissions) divided by the total hours worked to find the regular hourly rate for that week. Overtime is 1.5 times the regular rate for hours over 40​​.

Penalties for Noncompliance

Employers failing to pay the required overtime rates may face civil penalties and are subject to fines and legal action. The statute of limitations for unpaid overtime claims in Oklahoma is typically two years, extending to three years for willful violations​​.

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Wages and Benefits in Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s minimum wage matches the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for 2024. This applies across the board, irrespective of company size. 

For tipped employees, the minimum wage is $2.13 per hour, with the expectation that tips will supplement the wage to meet the federal minimum standard. If tips combined with the tipped minimum wage do not reach the standard minimum wage, employers must make up the difference​​​​.

Oklahoma law mandates that non-exempt employees must be paid at least twice a month. This regulation ensures that employees receive their earnings promptly, contributing to financial stability. Employers must adhere to these payment schedules to comply with state law​​.

Oklahoma labor laws do not obligate employers to provide certain benefits like paid vacation, sick leave, or paid holiday leave, leaving these as optional benefits that employers may offer at their discretion.

However, the state requires employers to allow nursing mothers unpaid break time to express breast milk, aligning with federal standards for workplace accommodation​​.

It’s generally expected that final pay should be issued by the next regular payday following termination of employment. Employers often establish policies regarding the issuance of final paychecks, and these policies must comply with applicable federal and state labor laws​​.

Employers in Oklahoma have the flexibility to design their benefits packages as they see fit, provided they comply with federal requirements such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for eligible employees. It allows for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons, ensuring employees do not lose their jobs during significant life events​​.

Prevailing Wages in Oklahoma

The concept of prevailing wages in Oklahoma is akin to the federal Davis-Bacon Act, which requires that contractors and subcontractors working on federal or federally-assisted projects pay their laborers and mechanics wages and benefits that are at least equal to the prevailing wages and benefits in the area where the work is performed. 

While Oklahoma does not have a state-specific prevailing wage law covering all public works projects, it adheres to federal standards for projects involving federal funds.

Prevailing wages are determined based on the wages paid to workers in similar occupations within a specific geographic area. These wage rates ensure that government contractors receive a fair wage comparable to local standards, preventing underbidding based on labor costs.

The U.S. Department of Labor determines the prevailing wage rates for projects that fall under the Davis-Bacon Act.

Employers looking for current prevailing wage rates for projects in Oklahoma can find this information through a few key resources:

  • U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) – Wage and Hour Division: The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division is responsible for determining prevailing wage rates for the Davis-Bacon Act and related acts. Their website provides detailed information on current prevailing wage determinations.
  • General Services Administration (GSA): The GSA provides access to federal contract opportunities and information, including prevailing wage rates for specific projects.
  • Oklahoma Department of Labor (ODOL): While the state department may not set prevailing wages directly for state projects not covered by federal funds, they can offer guidance and resources for employers and contractors on federal prevailing wage compliance and other labor standards.

Hiring Practices in Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, hiring practices are governed by a combination of federal and state laws designed to ensure fair treatment of job applicants throughout the hiring process.

These laws cover various aspects of the employment process, from job postings to interviews, hiring decisions, background checks, drug testing, and adherence to anti-discrimination principles. 

Job Postings

When creating job postings, employers must ensure they do not discriminate against protected classes under federal and state laws. Job descriptions should focus on the skills and qualifications necessary for the job, avoiding any language that could be construed as discriminatory.

Interviews and Hiring Decisions

In the interview process, it’s imperative for employers to steer clear of questions that may discriminate or touch upon protected attributes of applicants. This includes questions related to race, color, national origin, religion, sex (this encompasses gender identity and sexual orientation), age for those 40 or older, pregnancy, disability, and genetic information.

Hiring decisions should be based solely on the applicant’s qualifications and suitability.

Background Checks

Oklahoma employers can conduct background checks on potential hires but must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) if they use a third party to conduct the checks. Employers need the applicant’s written consent to perform the check and must follow specific procedures if the information obtained might lead to adverse hiring decisions.

Drug Testing

Oklahoma law allows employers to conduct drug testing under the Standards for Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Act. Employers who wish to implement a drug testing program must follow specific guidelines, including written policies, confidentiality of test results, and the right of employees to challenge or explain positive test results.

Anti-Discrimination Laws and Equal Employment Opportunities

Oklahoma employers are subject to federal anti-discrimination laws enforced by the EEOC. These laws prohibit discrimination in any aspect of employment. Oklahoma does not have a comprehensive state law that expands these protections but adheres to federal standards.

The Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination in employment based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, genetic information, or disability. It mirrors federal laws and provides a local avenue for filing discrimination complaints through the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office of Civil Rights Enforcement.

Health and Safety Standards in Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, workplace safety regulations are designed to ensure that all employees have a safe and healthy environment. These standards are enforced by state and federal agencies, primarily through ODOL and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also known as OSHA.

ODOL oversees various aspects of workplace safety in the state, including inspections, enforcement of labor laws, and safety training programs. While OSHA covers most private sector employees, ODOL provides additional resources and assistance to ensure employers comply with safety standards.

Resources for Employers and Employees

ODOL offers consultation services to help employers identify potential hazards and improve their safety programs. Employers and employees can access various safety resources on the ODOL website, including guidelines for developing a safety program and training materials.

Workers have the right to report unsafe working conditions to OSHA without fear of retaliation, and reports can be made anonymously via OSHA’s online complaint form or by calling the nearest OSHA office.

Child Labor Laws in Oklahoma

Oklahoma does not require minors to obtain a work permit. However, employers are required to verify the age of their minor employees, typically by requesting proof of age, such as a birth certificate or an identification card.

Age Restrictions

  • Under 14 years: Generally, children under 14 are not allowed to work, except in newspaper delivery, acting, and in family-owned businesses (provided the work is non-hazardous).
  • 14 and 15 years old: Minors in this age group can work in non-manufacturing, non-mining, and non-hazardous jobs under certain conditions regarding hours and times of work.
  • 16 and 17 years old: While fewer restrictions exist for this age group, they are still prohibited from working in hazardous occupations.

Hour Limitations

14 and 15 years old:

  • During the school session, students can work no more than 3 hours on a school day, 18 hours in a school week, 8 hours on a non-school day, and 40 hours in a non-school week.
  • Work is not permitted during school hours.
  • They may work between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. (9 p.m. from June 1 through Labor Day).

16 and 17 years old:

  • There are no hour restrictions for minors aged 16 and 17, but they cannot work during school hours unless they are part of a work experience or career education program.

Industry-Specific Regulations

Oklahoma has specific regulations for certain industries to protect minors:

  • Agriculture: Minors are allowed to work in agricultural positions, subject to federal laws, which may impose restrictions based on the minor’s age and the nature of the work.
  • Entertainment: Special provisions apply to minors working in the entertainment industry, including acting and modeling. Employers must ensure proper conditions, including limited working hours, mandated breaks, and the presence of a guardian.

Prohibited Occupations

There are clear restrictions on employing minors in hazardous occupations. For 14 and 15-year-olds, prohibitions include manufacturing, mining, operating heavy machinery, and any work that might be deemed dangerous. 

While 16 and 17-year-olds have more employment opportunities, they are still restricted from working in roles considered hazardous by the Department of Labor, such as in demolition, roofing, and meatpacking industries.

Enforcement and Reporting Violations

ODOL is responsible for enforcing child labor laws, and any violations can lead to fines and penalties for employers. Employees, guardians, and concerned citizens can report violations to the Department of Labor, which will investigate and take appropriate action.

Employee Termination and Resignation in Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, the legal framework surrounding employee termination and resignation is guided by both federal and state laws, focusing on “at-will” employment principles and “right-to-work” statutes. Here’s an overview of the essential aspects employers and employees need to know:

At-Will Employment

Oklahoma operates under the at-will employment doctrine, which means that, in the absence of a specific contract stating otherwise, an employer can terminate an employee at any time, for any reason, or no reason at all, as long as the reason is not illegal (e.g., based on discrimination). Similarly, employees are free to resign from their positions at any time, with or without cause.

Notice Requirements

There are no specific state laws in Oklahoma that require employers to provide notice to employees before termination or for employees to give notice before resigning. However, providing notice is often considered a best practice and may be governed by company policy or employment contracts.

Severance Pay Obligations

Oklahoma law does not require employers to provide severance pay to terminated employees unless an agreement or employer policy stipulates such payment. Severance agreements, when offered, are typically negotiated between the employer and the employee or their representatives.

Right-to-Work Laws

Oklahoma is a “right-to-work” state, meaning that employees cannot be required to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment. This statute ensures that employment decisions are not contingent upon union membership status, giving employees the freedom to decide whether or not to participate in union activities.

Final Paycheck

Under Oklahoma law, employers must provide a terminated employee’s final paycheck by the next regular payday. If an employee resigns, their final paycheck should also be provided by the next payday following their resignation date.

Unemployment Benefits

Terminated employees in Oklahoma may be eligible for unemployment benefits, provided they meet certain criteria such as being terminated for reasons other than misconduct.

The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission or OESC oversees unemployment benefits, and affected employees can apply for these benefits following termination.

Legal Protections Against Wrongful Termination

While the at-will employment doctrine is broad, there are legal protections to prevent wrongful termination.

Employers cannot terminate employees for discriminatory reasons (race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information), retaliatory reasons (e.g., for filing a complaint against the employer), or other reasons prohibited by state and federal law.

Unemployment Benefits in Oklahoma

To be eligible for unemployment benefits in Oklahoma, you must:

  • Be unemployed through no fault of your own,
  • Have worked in Oklahoma during the past 12 months and earned a minimum amount set by state guidelines,
  • Be actively seeking work each week you are collecting benefits.

Specifically, you need to have earned at least $1,500 during your base period, and your total base period earnings need to be at least 1.5 times your highest-paid quarter earnings. The base period is defined as the initial four out of the preceding five fully completed calendar quarters before submitting your claim.

Application Process

You can apply for unemployment benefits in Oklahoma online through the Oklahoma Internet Claim System or by phone at (405)-525-1500.

Employer’s Role

Employers play a significant role in the greater unemployment benefits process. The OESC is required to notify your last employer when you apply for benefits. Employers must provide the information necessary to process your application and have the right to appeal eligibility decisions​​.

For more detailed information on applying for unemployment benefits, eligibility criteria, and navigating the appeals process in Oklahoma, visit the official OESC website and Benefits.gov. These resources provide comprehensive guides to help employers and employees through the unemployment benefits process in Oklahoma.

Penalties for Noncompliance in Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, failing to comply with labor laws can result in various penalties and fines, depending on the nature and severity of the violation. 

Penalties and Fines

  • Wage and Hour Violations: Employers who fail to pay minimum wage or overtime can be subject to fines and must pay back wages to affected employees. The specific amount can vary based on the duration of the violation and the number of employees affected.
  • Safety Violations: Violations of workplace safety regulations can result in significant penalties, especially if they lead to workplace accidents or injuries. OSHA oversees these regulations at the federal level and can impose fines based on the severity and classification of the violation.
  • Discrimination and Harassment: The Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination in employment. Violations can lead to penalties, including compensatory and punitive damages.
  • Unemployment Insurance Noncompliance: Employers who fail to comply with unemployment insurance regulations, such as not reporting employee wages or misclassifying employees as independent contractors, can face fines, interest on unpaid taxes, and other penalties from the OESC.

Enforcement and Reporting Violations

  • Labor Law Enforcement: The ODOL is responsible for enforcing labor laws in the state. It conducts inspections, investigates complaints, and can levy fines or take other actions against non-compliant employers.
  • Safety Violations Reporting: Workers or concerned parties can report safety violations to OSHA or the ODOL. Reports can be made anonymously, and the agencies will investigate the claims.
  • Discrimination Complaints: Individuals who believe they have been discriminated against can file a complaint with the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office of Civil Rights Enforcement or the EEOC. These agencies will investigate the complaints and can take legal action if discrimination is found.
  • Unemployment Insurance Violations: The OESC handles issues related to unemployment insurance. Employers and employees can report suspected fraud or noncompliance through the OESC’s website or by contacting the agency directly.

Employers and employees are encouraged to visit the Oklahoma Department of Labor and Oklahoma Employment Security Commission websites for detailed information on reporting violations, specific penalties, and enforcement procedures. 

Other Essential Information About Labor Laws in Oklahoma

In addition to the primary labor laws regarding wages, safety, discrimination, and unemployment insurance, there are other state-specific labor laws and regulations in Oklahoma that employers and employees should be aware of. 

Labor Unions and Collective Bargaining

Oklahoma is a “right-to-work” state, as outlined in its constitution, which means that employees cannot be required to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment.

This law also affects collective bargaining, making Oklahoma distinct from states with more robust union protections. 

However, employees in unionized workplaces are still entitled to the same union representation and benefits as union members, even if they choose not to join the union or pay dues.

Workers’ Compensation

Employers in Oklahoma must provide workers’ compensation insurance for their employees, which covers medical expenses and lost wages for employees injured on the job or developing work-related illnesses. 

The Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission oversees claims and disputes related to workers’ compensation.

Occupational Safety and Health Standards

While OSHA provides federal safety standards, Oklahoma has its own Occupational Safety and Health Standards Act that applies to public sector employees, as private sector employees fall under federal OSHA jurisdiction. 

It ensures that state and local government employees receive protections similar to those provided to private sector employees under OSHA.

Reporting Violations

Employees who believe their rights have been violated under Oklahoma labor laws can report these issues to the appropriate state or federal agency. 

For wage and hour issues, the ODOL; for safety concerns, OSHA (for private sector employees) or the Oklahoma Department of Labor (for public sector employees); and for discrimination, the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office of Civil Rights Enforcement or the EEOC.

The Bottom Line on Oklahoma Labor Laws

Throughout this article, we’ve covered a broad range of Oklahoma labor laws and regulations essential for employers and employees to know.

Key Takeaways

Compliance with all of these various labor laws helps protect businesses from potential penalties and fines while safeguarding employees’ rights and well-being. In essence, it’s a mutual responsibility that fosters a positive working environment and contributes to the overall health of Oklahoma’s labor market.

Given the complexity and the constant evolution of labor laws, it’s understandable that both employers and employees might find navigating these waters challenging. Therefore, seeking legal advice from professionals specializing in employment law in Oklahoma is highly recommended for those with any specific questions or concerns.

Legal experts can help provide tailored advice and ensure you are fully informed about your rights and obligations under Oklahoma labor laws.

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