Oklahoma Wage Law Explained
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.” Employers failing to pay minimum wage or overtime is an example of such a condition.
Oklahoma Minimum Wage
The minimum wage in Oklahoma is the same as the federal minimum wage and requires employers that are subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act pay all non-exempt employees at least $7.25 per hour.
Under federal and Oklahoma state labor laws, employers are allowed to take a tip credit against minimum wage and pay tipped employees a lower cash wage, as long as their tips bring their earnings up to at least the minimum wage for each hour worked.
Under Oklahoma state wage laws, employers must pay at least 50% of the minimum wage amount to tipped employees or $3.63 per hour. Federal labor laws allow employers to pay as low as $2.13/hour to tipped employees. Based on a reading of the Oklahoma state labor law, courts have held that most Oklahoma employers can use the federal tip credit and only have to pay tipped employees $2.13 per hour.
Overtime Laws in Oklahoma
Oklahoma has no state law governing overtime. However, Federal law still applies. Any non-exempt employee 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. So even if an employee works 12 hours in one workday, he or she is not entitled to overtime pay unless he or she works more than 40 hours in that week.
Specific Overtime Exemptions
The following people are exempt from the Oklahoma labor law’s definition of employee:
- 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
Holidays / Vacation
Oklahoma does not have a state law requiring additional pay for work done on holidays or weekends. Employers are also not required to offer vacation, holiday or other pay for time not worked but may do so if they so choose.
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 if 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 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.
Retaliation Laws in Oklahoma
Oklahoma forbids retribution 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 against an employee asserting a claim or right under the law.