Labor and Employment Law Overview: Oklahoma
Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.
Author: Susan Tahernia
- Oklahoma employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees based on a variety of factors. See Unlawful Discrimination.
- Certain minors must be given rest periods. The length of their breaks depends on how many consecutive hours they work. See Meal and Rest Periods.
- Under state law, only certain wage deductions may be made without a written agreement. See Wage Deductions.
- Oklahoma law mandates the minimum number of times per month that employees must be paid wages. See Payment of Wages.
- Under state law, small employers must provide health continuation coverage but for far less time than mandated by federal law. See Continuation of Health Coverage (Mini-COBRA Law).
Key Oklahoma Employment Laws
Oklahoma has key employment laws affecting the employer-employee relationship. Below, HR professionals will find a summary of certain laws they are most likely to encounter. It is important that HR professionals understand state law and how it interacts with applicable federal laws.
Interplay Between State and Federal Law
Employers are responsible for complying with both state and federal executive orders, statutes, regulations and other legal requirements. Often, state and federal legal requirements will address the same subject matter and impose varying compliance obligations on the employer. For instance, federal law may impose a higher minimum wage rate than state law. Alternatively, state law may require employers to retain certain records for a longer time period than federal law. Unfortunately, employers cannot select which law they want to comply with. Instead, employers that are covered by both state and federal law must comply with both. As a general rule of thumb, complying with the law that offers the greatest possible rights or benefits to the employee will ensure the employer meets its compliance obligations.
Like federal law, Oklahoma law prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of the following:
- National origin;
- Age (40 and over); or
Child Labor Laws
State child labor laws place specific restrictions on the type of work minors can perform and limitations on their hours of work.
Except as otherwise provided in the Oklahoma Minimum Wage Act, no employer within Oklahoma may pay any employee a wage less than the current federal minimum wage for all hours worked. Exceptions apply to some student workers and tipped employees.
Covered employers should comply with federal wage and hour laws regarding payment of overtime.
Meal and Rest Periods
State law does not require employers to provide breaks to employees age 16 or older; mandatory break laws only apply to children under the age of 16 as follows:
- For every five hours worked, a 30-minute rest period is required.
- For every eight hours worked, a one-hour rest period is required.
Employers must sign a written agreement with employees to make legal deductions from employees' wages, unless deductions are made under:
- Express statutory authority, such as state and federal tax withholdings and FICA; or
- A prior, valid, final judgment by an employer against an employee.
Payment of Wages
With the exception of exempt employees, every employee must be paid all wages due at least twice each calendar month. State, county, municipal and exempt employees must be paid a minimum of once each calendar month.
If an employee is terminated or quits employment, the employer should pay wages due and owing on the next regularly designated pay day.
Continuation of Health Coverage
Former employees of organizations with less than 20 employees generally have a right to purchase continued health care coverage for a period that is far less than the period provided for under federal law.
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