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Quick and Easy Guide to Labor & Employment Law: Oklahoma

This state-specific guide covers labor and employment case law, statutes, rules, and regulations that HR professionals and clients often encounter or have questions about in Oklahoma.

At-Will Employment

Oklahoma is an at-will employment state. In Oklahoma, unless an employee is hired under a contract that states otherwise, an employee may be discharged for any reason or no reason as long as it is not an unlawful reason. It is unlawful to terminate an employee in retaliation for the employee's exercise of rights under Oklahoma's Workers' Compensation Law or to terminate  based on an employee's race, color, sex, pregnancy, age (40 and over), national origin, religion, genetic information, or mental or physical disability, or in retaliation for reporting the employer's illegal conduct.

www.okbar.org/freelegalinfo/employrights

Right to Work Laws

Oklahoma's Right to Work law went into effect on September 28, 2001. No person shall be required, as a condition of employment or continuation of employment, to:

  1. Resign or refrain from voluntary membership in, voluntary affiliation with, or voluntary financial support of a labor organization;
  2. Become or remain a member of a labor organization;
  3. Pay any dues, fees, assessments or other charges of any kind or amount to a labor organization;
  4. Pay to any charity or other third party, in lieu of such payments, any amount equivalent to or pro rata portion of dues, fees, assessments or other charges regularly required of members of a labor organization; or
  5. Be recommended, approved, referred or cleared by or through a labor organization.

The provisions of this section shall apply to all employment contracts entered into after the effective date of this section and shall apply to any renewal or extension of any existing contract. Any person who directly or indirectly violates any provision of this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. Okla. Const. art. 23, § 1A.

Immigration Verification

Oklahoma places no additional employment verification procedures on employers beyond Federal I-9 compliance. There is no requirement to use E-Verify under Oklahoma state laws. www.ok.gov/okdocc/documents/20180319%20CSO%20Application%20Updated.pdf

Drug Testing

Employers in Oklahoma may require applicants to take a drug test as a condition of employment. Oklahoma employers may require employees to take drug tests in the following circumstances:

  • following a workplace accident causing injury or property damage
  • at random
  • as part of a routine fitness-for-duty exam, and
  • as a follow-up to a rehabilitation program.

40 Okl. St. Ann. § 554. Employers may also test for cause, a reasonable belief that the employee is under the influence of drugs at work (based on, for example, seeing the employee with drugs, an unexplained pattern of absences or tardiness, or employee behavior that suggests impairment). Id. 

The Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Use and Patient Protection Act, enacted in 2019, prohibits employers from taking action against employees related to medical marijuana license status or based on results of a drug test that is positive for marijuana or its components.

Jury Duty Leave

An employer is not required to pay an employee for time spent responding to a jury summons or serving on a jury.

An employer may not discharge or otherwise subject to any adverse employment action an employee who is summoned to serve as a juror and who notifies his or her employer of the summons within a reasonable period of time after receiving the summons and prior to his or her appearance for jury duty.

An employer may not require or request an employee to use annual, vacation or sick leave for time spent responding to a summons for jury duty, time spent participating in the jury selection process or time spent serving on a jury. 38 OK Stat § 38-34 (2020).

Voting Leave

An employer shall grant an employee two hours of time during the period when the polls are open in which to vote, and if such employee is in the county or at such distance from the voting place that more two hours are required in which to participate in such elections, then the employee shall be allowed a sufficient time in which to cast a ballot. An employer may designate the hours of absence.

Wages: Upon proof of voting, such employee shall not be subject to any loss of compensation or other penalty for such absence.

Exception: An employer is not required to provide voting leave if the employee's shift begins at least three hours after the polls open or ends at least three hours before the polls close.

Notice Requirement: An employee must notify the employer orally or in writing of his/her intention to be absent prior to Election Day.

Any employer who fails to comply with this section shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction shall be fined not less than $50.00 nor more than $100.00. 26 OK Stat § 26-7-101 (2020).

Parental Leave

Oklahoma has implemented requirements that are similar but is not intended to conflict with the requirements of the federal FMLA. To be eligible for the leave, employees must have been employed by the state for at least one year and have worked at least 1,250 hours during the preceding 12-month period. The law provides state employees with up to 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period for the birth or placement of a child or for the serious health condition of the employee or the employee's spouse, child or parent. If the employee takes this leave for a serious health condition, the employer may require medical certification from the health care provider of the employee or the employee's ill family member. Leave for a serious health condition may be taken intermittently or on a reduced schedule basis. Oklahoma Leave of Absence (FMLA).

Other Leave

There is no Oklahoma law that requires private sector employers to provide employees sick leave, paid or unpaid, although many employers do grant it as a popular employee benefit. It is important to remember, however, that if sick leave is promised, an employer may create a legal obligation to grant it. Employers should regularly review statements made in handbooks or elsewhere to ensure that they accurately reflect current policies. If changes are necessary, the policy should be revised and employees notified of the changes. Oklahoma Sick Leave.

Smoking Laws

Oklahoma law prohibits lighted tobacco products in all indoor workplaces. Although there are some exceptions, this includes work areas, employee lounges, restrooms, conference rooms, classrooms, employee cafeterias, hallways, and other spaces used or visited by employees. An employer may also prohibit smoking within certain distances of its entrances to the workplace. Employees and visitors should be advised that the workplace is tobacco free by a notice posted by the employer. 63 OK Stat. § 63-1-1523

Break Time to Express Milk

An employer may provide reasonable unpaid break time each day to an employee who needs to breast-feed or express breast milk for her child to maintain milk supply and comfort. The break time, if possible, shall run concurrently with any break time, paid or unpaid, already provided to the employee. Employers are urged to provide a private area (other than a toilet stall) for this purpose. An employer is not required to provide break time under this section if to do so would create an undue hardship on the operations of the employer. 40 OK Stat. § 40-435.

Meal Breaks

The State of Oklahoma has no law regulating meal breaks or rest periods. The state only requires paying the employee for time they work during a break.

Minimum Wage and Overtime

Beginning January 1, 2008, the State of Oklahoma set minimum wage at not less than $7.25 per hour. Employers must still comply with federal wage laws and regulations. The employer can pay tipped employees $3.63 per hour as long as the employee's tips bring the total hourly wage up to the state minimum wage.

For a full-time student attending any accredited institution of education and who is employed to work an amount not to exceed 20 hours during weeks that school is in session and 40 hours when school is not in session, the minimum wage is $6.16.

Generally, if an employee works more than 40 hours, he or she must be compensated at a rate of one and one-half times the regular rate of pay at which he or she is employed. This does not apply to agricultural employees. Oklahoma Minimum Wage.

Final Payments

Oklahoma requires that final paychecks be sent either on the next scheduled payday or with 14 days, whichever is later.

The final paycheck should contain the employee's regular wages from the most recent pay period, plus other types of compensation such as commissions, bonuses, and accrued sick and vacation pay. Employers can withhold money from the employee's last paycheck if the employee owes the organization. 40 OK Stat § 40-165.3 (2020).

Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment insurance benefits provide income to individuals who have lost work through no fault of their own. The benefits are intended to partially offset the loss of wages while an unemployed worker searches for suitable work or until an employer can recall the employee to work. Nothing is deducted from the employee's wages to pay for this coverage. Unemployment benefits are administered by the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission and additional information regarding the benefits may be accessed at www.benefits.gov/benefit/1775

Workers' Compensation

The Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Act applies to every employee and employer in Oklahoma. Employees who suffer injuries and/or occupational diseases arising out of and in the course of their employment may be eligible to receive several types of benefits under the Act. Under the Act, a workplace injury must be immediately reported to the employer; failing to timely report an injury may result in a denial of benefits.

Child Labor

The Child Labor Unit (CLU) is responsible for the enforcement of child labor. Child labor laws are designed to protect minors by regulating the legal age or employment, work permit process, hours and time standards, breaks and prohibited jobs. The Oklahoma Child Labor Law adopts standards for children between the ages of 14 to 17 employed in non-farm jobs. The law determines what occupations are injurious to the health or morals, or those jobs especially hazardous to the life and limb of children. Farm jobs are exempt from any provisions of the Oklahoma Child labor act.

Gun Laws

Oklahoma's permitless carry law allows anyone aged at least 21 years old, who is not otherwise disqualified from possessing a firearm under state and federal law, and who is not carrying the gun in furtherance of a crime, to carry without a permit. The minimum age to carry drops to 18 years old or older if the person is a member or veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces, Reserves or National Guard or was discharged under honorable conditions from the U.S. Armed Forces, Reserves or National Guard.

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Guide last updated July 2021.

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