What's Your Unpaid Wage Claim Worth in Oklahoma?

Learn how to calculate what you're owed in unpaid wages and penalties.

In Oklahoma, state and federal laws determine how much you must be paid, when you must be paid, and more. If your employer has not paid you properly or on time, you can recover not only your unpaid wages, but also penalties intended to punish your employer for wage theft. Below, we explain how to calculate what you are owed.

Unpaid Wages

Employees must be paid at least the minimum hourly wage. In Oklahoma, the state minimum wage is the same as the federal minimum wage: $7.25 an hour. If your city or county has a higher minimum wage, you are entitled to that amount.

To calculate your unpaid minimum wage, subtract what you were actually paid per hour from what you should have been paid per hour. For example, if you were paid only $5.25 an hour for your first four weeks of full-time work, you would be entitled to $2 an hour times 40 hours times four weeks, or $320.

In most states, including Oklahoma, employers may pay a lower minimum wage to employees who earn tips, as long as the hourly wage plus tips adds up to at least the full minimum wage. Learn more in Oklahoma Laws for Tipped Employees.

Unpaid Overtime

Failing to pay the overtime premium is one of the most common ways employers violate wage laws. Under federal law, which applies to Oklahoma employers, employees are entitled to overtime if they work more than 40 hours in a week.

You are entitled to overtime unless your employer can prove that you fit into one of the narrow exemptions to the overtime rules. The most common exemptions are for outside salespeople and “white-collar” employees who do professional, managerial, and administrative work and who have the authority to make relatively high-level decisions; see our overtime page for more information.

If your employer has failed to pay you for overtime, you are entitled to an extra 50% of your regular hourly rate. For example, if you are usually paid $10 an hour, you are entitled to be paid time and a half, or $15 an hour, for overtime work.

Example: Darnelle works at a coffee shop, earning $8 an hour. He usually works 40 hours a week. However, he agrees to come in for an extra 8-hour shift when a coworker call in sick. For that week, he is entitled to $8 an hour for his first 40 hours ($320), plus time and a half—$12—for his extra eight hours ($96), for a grand total of $416 for the week.

Unpaid Breaks and Time Off

Employers in Oklahoma are not required to give meal or rest breaks to their employees. However, if they chose to provide breaks, they must pay for:

  • any breaks of less than 20 minutes, and
  • any breaks during which the employee is required to work (for example, if you have to eat lunch at your desk in order to wait for deliveries).

To calculate your unpaid break wages, add up how much time you spent on shorter breaks that should have been paid or breaks that you had to work through. Multiply this extra time by your hourly rate. And don’t forget overtime: Breaks for which you should have been paid count as hours worked, which means they may push your total hours for the week above 40.

Penalties for Unpaid Wages

If your employer violates the federal minimum wage or overtime laws, you have the right to request liquidated damages in the amount of your unpaid wages. In other words, if your employer fails to pay you $4,500 in overtime, you can request another $4,500 in liquidated damages, for a total award of $9,000.

If you file a wage claim for a minimum wage violation, Oklahoma law allows the state Labor Commissioner to collect an additional 10% of the amount your employer owes you, as a penalty payable to you. If you file a lawsuit, the court can order your employer to pay you twice the amount it owes you, less any amount it already paid.

Additional penalties may be available for other wage violations. For example, Oklahoma employers that fail to give employees their final paychecks on time may be required to pay a penalty of 2% of the unpaid wages for each day the check is late, or an amount equal to the unpaid wages, whichever is smaller.

Filing a Lawsuit

If your employer failed to pay you all of the wages you earned, you can file a lawsuit or a wage claim with the Employment Standards Division of the Oklahoma Department of Labor. (Check the Department’s website for information on how to file a claim for unpaid wages.)

If you plan to go forward with a lawsuit or a wage claim, talk to an experienced Oklahoma wage and hour lawyer. A lawyer can represent you in either proceeding. If you win, your attorney can ask the judge to require your employer to pay his or her fee.

If you plan to assert your rights, you should act quickly. There are time limits for filing these claims, which a lawyer can explain to you. Memories fade, documents can be lost, and people move on to new jobs. It’s best to file a wage claim shortly after your employer failed to pay you, so you can get the money you are owed and get on with your life.

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