Oklahoma Overtime and Labor Laws
Oklahoma law states, “The welfare of the State of Oklahoma demands that the working people of Oklahoma be protected from conditions of labor which have a pernicious effect on their health or morals.” And inadequate wages?employers failing to pay minimum wage or overtime?is an example of such a “pernicious effect.”
The minimum wage in Oklahoma is the same as the federal minimum wage and requires employers to pay all non-exempt employees at least $7.25 per hour. Tipped employees must receive the minimum wage, but 50% of that can be in the form of tip credits. This means that an employer must pay its non-exempt tipped employee over 18 years of age $3.63 per hour, with the remaining $3.62 (combining to make $7.25) either covered by tips the employee receives or by the employer if the employee does not make the difference in tips. The point is that an employee’s wage and tips must combine to equal at least $7.25 per hour.
The following employees may be paid a sub-minimum wage:
- Apprentices and learners
- Employees with certain mental or physical disabilities (a “handicapped rate” is intended to allow disabled individuals whose earning capacity is limited or impaired to more easily find employment)
- Employees employed by any federal, state, county, or municipal government
- Volunteer employees
Oklahoma has no state law governing overtime. However, Federal law still applies. All non-exempt employees must be paid 1.5 times their regular hourly rate for all hours worked over 40 in a seven-day work week. Although the 40-hour workweek averages out to the standard eight hours per weekday, overtime is calculated on a weekly basis. This means that even if an employee works 12 hours in one workday, he is not entitled to overtime pay unless he works more than 40 hours in that week.
The following people are exempt from the Oklahoma labor law’s definition of employee, meaning they are not entitled to minimum wage or overtime:
Holidays / Vacation
- People employed in bona fide Executive, Administrative, or Professional capacities
- Agricultural workers
- Outside salespeople
- People employed in or about a private home
- Volunteers for nonprofit organizations
- People employed by any level of government
- Employees of carriers subject to Part I of the Interstate Commerce Act
Oklahoma does not have a state law requiring additional pay for work done on holidays or weekends. Employers are also not required by law to offer vacation, holiday or other pay for time not worked. These policies are at the discretion of the employer.
Meal Breaks / Rest Periods
Only employees under the age of 16 receive mandatory rest periods. Under federal law, breaks of 20 minutes or more can be without pay as long as the employee is fully relieved of his duties.
Reporting Time Pay
Neither Oklahoma nor the Federal law requires payment if an employee reports to work expecting to work for a certain number of hours but does not get to work their full schedule.
Employers in Oklahoma must set paydays at least twice per month on scheduled paydays. The payday must be within 11 days of the period worked. Exempt employees and state, county, and municipal employees may be paid once per month. Upon termination, an employee must be paid no later than the next regular pay period through the regular pay channels, certified mail, or any other method provided by collective bargaining.
Statute of Limitations
Oklahoma wage payment law does not contain a limitations period, however, the general limitations period for civil suits under Oklahoma state law is 5 years. There are several exceptions to this with shorter timeframes. Under federal wage and hour law, employees seeking unpaid wages and overtime are able to go back 2, or possibly 3, years from the date a suit is filed with the court before claims are barred by the statute of limitations.
Remedies / Penalties
Oklahoma employers who withhold wages are liable for double
the amount of any unpaid wages plus costs and attorney’s fees. An employer who intentionally withholds wages is additionally liable for the lesser of the amount of unpaid wages or two percent of the unpaid wages for each day after the wages are due. Practically, this means that if the employer intentionally withholds wages for at least 50 days, it is liable for three times
the amount of all unpaid wages, plus costs and attorney’s fees.
Oklahoma law allows an employee to bring suit against his employer for failure to pay adequate wages on behalf of himself or other similarly situated employees. This means that an employee may bring a class action with no opt-in requirements to join in the lawsuit.
Oklahoma specifically prohibits retaliation against any employee seeking payment of withheld wages, making such conduct criminally punishable as a misdemeanor. An employer may not discharge, demote, deny promotion, or discriminate in any way against an employee asserting a claim or right under the law.