Compliance Watch:
What are my rights as an hourly employee in Oklahoma?

April 11th 2024

It is fundamental to understand that the recognition of your rights in connection with hourly employment extends further than the mere application of the law; they act as the gateway towards professional development, instilling the confidence required to navigate one’s own career journey.

As you punch in and out each day, your earnings significantly shape your professional standing in the workplace. While the employment regulations vary among U.S. states, you may find yourself reflecting over your particular employment entitlements in your state and how to ensure their proper compliance to the respective regulations.

Therefore, this article is particularly written to address your queries with regards to the various facts of employment as a working individual. Its goal is to furnish you with the relevant knowledge needed to ensure your employment rights remain legally secured throughout your employment.

This Article Covers

Defining an Hourly Employee in Oklahoma
Wage and Hour Regulations in Oklahoma
Rest Laws in Oklahoma
Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in Oklahoma
Termination of Employment in Oklahoma

Defining an Hourly Employee in Oklahoma

What is Hourly Employment in Oklahoma?

In general, the compensatory structure of an hourly wage earner is contingent on the actual number of hours worked in each pay period. This results in a fluctuating gross pay from one paycheck to the next.

Due to the overall work structure of hourly employees, employers often rely on time tracking tools to keep track of their billable hours, ensuring they are compensated accurately. However, salaried employees earn a fixed annual amount, regardless of the hours worked.

Additionally, hourly employees typically acquire the opportunity to earn overtime payment, a benefit not extended to salaried employees (if they are classed as exempt employees). Given the difference in work structures, hourly employees may have fewer employment benefits, such as health insurance or retirement plans, compared to their salaried counterparts.

What are the Key Differences Between Salaried and Hourly Employees in Oklahoma?

Aspect Hourly Employees Salaried Employees
Compensation Paid per hour worked. Paid on a monthly or bimonthly basis. 
Overtime Pay Legally entitled to earn the federally mandated overtime pay. May not be legally entitled to earn the federally mandated overtime pay.
Minimum wage Legally entitled to earn the federally mandated minimum hourly pay. May not be legally entitled to earn the federally mandated minimum hourly pay.
Employment benefits Acquire fewer employment benefits. Acquire more employment benefits.
Rest and Meal Breaks No legal entitlement to rest and meal breaks. No legal entitlement to rest and meal breaks.
Compensation Stability Compensation depends on the number of hours worked. Compensation is independent of the number of hours worked.

To learn more about Oklahoma labor laws, you can access our informative guides on understanding your rights as a salaried employee in Oklahoma and discovering how to run payroll in Oklahoma.

Wage and Hour Regulations in Oklahoma

What are the Maximum Weekly Working Hours in Oklahoma?

In Oklahoma, neither the state’s minimum wage act nor does the legal provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) limit the number of hours an adult employee is legally permitted to work in a given week. Hence, employees in Oklahoma are free to work as many hours as they wish in a week or in accordance to the hours specifically set by the discretion of their employer.

However, the FLSA does specifically require that non-exempt employees must be paid one and a half times their regular hourly pay rate for working hours that surpasses 40 hours in a single work week. In addition, certain employees in Oklahoma are ineligible to receive overtime compensation under the federal overtime regulations.

What is the Minimum Wage for Hourly Employees in Oklahoma?

Currently, Oklahoma’s minimum wage aligns with the federal minimum wage requirements established under the FLSA. Additionally, cities or counties in Oklahoma are prohibited by state law from increasing the minimum wage beyond the federal minimum wage. Hence, in a 40-hour workweek, Oklahoma’s hourly employees typically earn a minimum weekly pay of $290.

Do All Employees Earn the Minimum Wage in Oklahoma?

The list below includes employees exempt from state and federal minimum wage and overtime requirements in Oklahoma:

  • Tipped Employees: Tipped employees are mandated by federal law to be paid a minimum hourly wage lower than that of the standard federal requirement, provided that the hourly wage in combination with the tips received aligns with the federal minimum wage of $7.25.
  • Full-time students: High school or college students working part time may earn 85% of the federal minimum hourly wage for up to 20 hours of work in a week.
  • Employees below 20 years old: The federal law requires employers to compensate employees under the age of 20 with an hourly training wage of $4.25 within the first 90 days of employment. After the end of 90 days, these employees must earn the minimum federal wage.
  • Outside salespeople.
  • Employees employed in a domestic service in or about a private home.
  • Employees working for the government of the United States.
  • Newspaper delivery employees.
  • Employees working in agriculture.
  • Individuals working as volunteers of a charitable, religious, or other nonprofit organization.
  • Employees employed as reserve force deputy sheriffs.
  • Administrative, executive, or professional employees.
  • Employees who are computer professionals.

How Many Hours Qualify As Overtime and What is the Associated Pay in Oklahoma?

Currently, Oklahoma has no laws of its own that govern overtime payments of employees. Hence, the provisions of the FLSA apply in this regard. According to federal law, overtime hours are defined as any hours worked that exceeds the standard 40-hour workweek, which must be paid at a set hourly rate of one and a half times the employee’s regular hourly pay. That means, an hourly employee typically earns a minimum wage of $10.88 for every hour worked overtime.

Apart from the previously mentioned exempt categories, the employees listed below are only exempt from the federal overtime pay requirements in Oklahoma, as follows:

  1. Specific commissioned employees of retail or service establishments; auto, truck, trailer, farm implement, boat, or aircraft sales-workers; or parts-clerks and mechanics servicing autos, trucks, or farm implements, who are employed by non-manufacturing establishments that primarily sell these items to ultimate purchasers;
  2. Employees of railroads and air carriers, taxi drivers, certain employees of motor carriers, seamen on American vessels, and local delivery employees paid on approved trip rate plans;
  3. Announcers, news editors, and chief engineers of specific non-metropolitan broadcasting stations;
  4. Employees employed in domestic service and live in the employer’s residence;
  5. Motion picture theatre employees; and
  6. Employees who are farmers.

Rest Laws in Oklahoma

What are the Offered Meal and Rest Breaks for Hourly Employees in Oklahoma?

In Oklahoma, there are no state laws that mandate employers to provide rest and meal breaks for employees who are above the age of 16. Consequently, the FLSA prevail in their applicability in this regard. Under federal law, rest and meal breaks are not required to be provided by employers but if they are given, breaks that are 20 minutes or less in duration must be compensated for by the employer. On the contrary, employers do not need to compensate for meal breaks that last 30 minutes or longer, provided that the employee is completely off work duties during that break period. 

However, this general federal principle is inapplicable for employees aged 16 years and below. Oklahoma’s statutory laws demand employers to grant a 30 minute rest break for minor employees who are scheduled to work for more than five consecutive hours. In addition, minor employees must be granted a one hour cumulative rest break for every 8 consecutive hours worked. 

As for employees who are lactating mothers, both state law and federal law permits employers to provide nursing mothers with daily reasonable unpaid break time to express milk in a secluded non-bathroom area that is free from public intrusion for up to one year after they have given birth and if possible, the breastfeeding break shall concurrently run with any paid or unpaid break time that has already been provided to them.

What Laws Govern Time Off and Leaves for Hourly Employees in Oklahoma?

  • Military leave: Employees who are members of the military are entitled to the employment benefits provided by the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). This federal law provides employees with up to 5 years of unpaid leave for the purpose of serving the military, along with the opportunity to be reinstated to their previously held employment position. Furthermore, the Act allows for the continuation of group healthcare benefits for 24 months during their military leave.
  • Jury duty leave: According to section 34 of Title 38 in the Oklahoma Statutes, an employee is legally entitled to take leave of absence in order to respond to a jury summons or serve on a jury. Employees are also not required to be compensated by their employer for the time that they have spent during their jury duty leave. Moreover, an employer is prohibited from requesting an employee to use their annual, vacation or sick leaves to respond to a jury summons, as well as terminating or taking adverse employment actions against an employee for responding to a jury summons.
  • Family and Medical leave: The federal Family and Medical Leave Act grants eligible employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for the purpose of attending to matters relating to; childbirth or child adoption, a serious medical problem affecting either the employee or their immediate family member or specific military-related activities. Employees are only eligible for this leave if: 
    • They were employed by the same employer for at least 12 months before using their leave.
    • They must have worked for a minimum duration of 1,250 hours during the 12 month period of employment under the same employer preceding their leave.
    • The employer has 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius.

Deductions, Benefits, and Protections in Oklahoma

What are the Laws Regarding Pay Deductions for Hourly Employees in Oklahoma?

Oklahoma’s statutory law permits an employer from deducting or withholding a portion of an employee’s pay only if:

  • They have been empowered to do so by state or federal law, or
  • The employee has given voluntary prior written consent to the payroll deduction, which has been signed by both the employee and the employer, and restricted to the following types of deductions: 
    • Repayment of a loan or advance which the employer made to an employee during the course of employment or to recover a payroll overpayment;
    • To compensate their employer for covering the cost of merchandise or uniforms purchased by the employee;
    • To contribute towards insurance premiums, retirement benefits or other investment benefits;
    • To compensate their employer for the breakage or loss of merchandise, inventory shortage, or cash shortage so long as the employee was the sole party accountable for the cash shortage or item damaged or lost.

Furthermore, Oklahoma’ statutory laws require employers to provide a statement that accurately outlies the deductions in payroll for the pay period where the deductions were made.

What are the Provided Hourly Employees Entitlements Under Oklahoma State Law?

  • Minimum wage: Oklahoma’s hourly wage earners are legally entitled under federal law to earn the state’s minimum hourly wage of $7.25.
  • Overtime: Hourly employees in Oklahoma acquire the legal right to earn compensation fixed at one and a half times an employee’s regular hourly wage for working overtime hours.
  • Worker’s compensation insurance: Oklahoma’s Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act requires all employers to grant insurance benefits for any accidental work-related injuries sustained by the employee or for the employee’s death arising from the course of their employment. Such benefits apply regardless of fault for the injury and whether the employee’s employment contract was made or if the injury was sustained within the state of Oklahoma. Furthermore, an employee is entitled to file a claim for worker’s compensation without facing retaliation from their employer as a consequence.
  • Unemployment insurance benefits: In Oklahoma, employees are entitled to have their employers pay a contribution rate for their own unemployment benefits to the Oklahoma Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. This insurance type aims to provide a temporary supply of income to individuals who have become completely or partially unemployed.
  • Short-term and long-term disability insurance benefits: An employee who has sustained a disabling injury or illness is entitled to receive disability insurance benefits, which partially offsets lost wages in which they would have otherwise earned if they were not disabled. These insurance benefits are applicable to employees who suffer either a short-term or long-term disability and are typically calculated using their base salary at the time the disability occurred.

What are the Provided Hourly Employee Protections Under Oklahoma State Law?

  • Whistleblowing protection laws: The Oklahoma Whistleblower Act protects employees from being retaliated against by their employers for reporting any violations of law, policy, health and safety requirements in the workplace as well as discussing operations of the agency with authorities who are in a position to initiate or take investigative actions. Furthermore, employees who whistleblow in good faith are still covered by the Act even if the alleged violations that they have raised were found to have not occurred.
  • Workplace safety: Under the Oklahoma Occupational Health & Safety Standards Act of 1970, employees are protected from having any adverse employment actions taken against them by their employers for reporting work hazards to the appropriate authorities. Additionally, the health and safety of employees are protected by their employers under this Act by ensuring employees are given safety training and are in a work environment that is free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause serious harm or death to employees.
  • Protection from workplace discrimination: Oklahoma’s statutory laws protect employees from facing discrimination in the workplace. An example of workplace discrimination includes having personnel actions taken against an employee by their respective employer for reasons that are associated with their protected characteristics, which comprises their; race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, genetic information.
  • Child labor protection: With regards to the laws governing child labor, Oklahoma adheres to the requirements outlined in the FLSA. The federal provisions regulate the permitted working hours of minor employees and also restricts them from working in certain occupations that would risk their health and safety. Such restricted occupations include:
    • The involvement of operating or tending of hoisting apparatus or of any power-driven machinery that are not office machines.
    • The involvement of operating motor vehicles or service as helpers on such vehicles.
    • Public messenger service.
    • Occupations that are specifically declared to be hazardous to the health and well-being of minors below the age of 16 years by federal laws and regulations or as declared by the commissioner of labor.
    • The involvement of Manufacturing, mining, or processing.

Termination of Employment in Oklahoma

What are the Termination Laws for Hourly Employees in Oklahoma?

Oklahoma, like many other U.S. states, generally follows the employment-at-will doctrine, allowing both employers and employees to terminate the employment relationship at any time without notice or justification. However, like all general legal principles, there are specific circumstances that apply, which may limit an employer’s broad discretionary ability in terminating their employees. The exceptions are as follows:

  • Breach of employment contract: The terms of an employment contract may specify particular reasons that would consequently result in the termination of employment, such as failing to perform in accordance with the required work standards. In such circumstances, employers must ensure they honor the relevant contractual terms to avoid facing any legal consequences. 
  • Retaliation: Under federal law, employers are prohibited from retaliating against their employees by taking personnel actions against them due to their participation in necessary or legally protected activities. An example of this involves terminating an employee who objects or exposes any employment practices which are discriminatory, unlawful or harmful in nature and violate the law.
  • Workplace discrimination: Oklahoma’s statutory provisions establishes that an employer is prohibited from terminating an employee in a manner that is discriminatory in nature, such as terminating their employment based on their protected characteristics, which include their; race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, genetic information.
  • Public policy: Oklahoma employers are prohibited from dismissing their employees for complying with regulations established by public policy. Examples of adherence to public policies include when an employee:
    • Rejects the participation of unlawful activities upon the request of an employer.
    • Participates in activities that serve the public interest (such as serving their jury duty).
    • Reports workplace violations committed by an employer to the respective authorities.
    • Asserts their statutory rights (such as filing a claim for compensation).

Moreover, in Oklahoma, an employee who has been separated from work, either by dismissal or voluntary resignation, is entitled to be given their final paycheck by the next regularly scheduled pay date. Employers must ensure to promptly issue an employee’s final paycheck to avoid incurring any legal penalties enforced by the statutory provisions of state law.

Should Severance Pay Be Provided to Hourly Employees in Oklahoma?

Oklahoma’s employment laws do not mandate employers to offer severance pay to their terminated employees. However, if an employer chooses to offer such benefits, severance must be paid in compliance with the stipulations of the employment contract or with the terms of the company’s established policy.

Final Thoughts

To conclude, acquiring a thorough awareness of your employment rights is imperative to ensure that your legal entitlements and overall welfare are protected during the course of your employment in the workplace. 

Additionally, in light of the general variable character of employment regulations, remaining cognizant with progressive legal developments concerning your particular state’s employment regulations is fundamental for making informed choices pertaining to your employment throughout your career.

Important Cautionary Note

This content is provided for informational purposes only. While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information presented, we cannot guarantee that it is free of errors or omissions. Users are advised to independently verify any critical information and should not solely rely on the content provided.