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With its current population of over 4 million, Oklahoma has a sizeable civilian labor force that comprises almost half of its citizens as of September 2023. Out of more than 1.8 million employed individuals in the state, over 1.7 million work in non-agricultural industries; the majority work as government employees, followed by those who work in the trade, transportation, and utilities sectors.

Compared to its considerable workforce, Oklahoma only had 713 complaints related to violations of employment laws in the past year. More than half of these involved retaliation, while a significant number concerned discrimination based on sex, disability, and age. In total, the state’s complaints made up 1% of the country’s total, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Still, Oklahoma’s relatively low case numbers do not necessarily mean that employment discrimination and retaliation do not occur. Any worker may experience these problems, which frequently violate their rights to fair treatment, proper wages, and job security.

This article aims to help employees in the state identify their rights as individual workers and as members of organizations. It will also help them learn about the legal measures that they can take if their employer has discriminated against them. 

Oklahoma Wage Laws

Minimum Wage

Oklahoma follows the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, which applies to employers who have at least 10 full-time workers. This is also enforced for employers who are part of interstate commerce and those who earn over $100,000 annually. No municipality in the state may impose a minimum wage that differs from the federal minimum.

Additionally, the state enforces a minimum wage of $4.25 per hour for workers under the age of 20 during the first 90 days of their employment. College or high school students who work part-time must be paid at least $6.16 per hour.

Overtime Pay

Oklahoma has no laws that require overtime pay, though certain employers are required to follow provisions set by federal law. Specifically, the Fair Labor Standards Act states that employers must provide overtime pay equal to 1.5 times the amount of a worker’s regular pay for any hours that they work beyond the 40-hour weekly minimum. Those who are exempted from overtime requirements include:

  • Outside salespeople;

  • Agricultural workers;

  • Nonprofit organizations volunteers;

  • Government employees;

  • Professionals, executives, and administrative workers.

Provisions for Tipped Employees

In Oklahoma, employers are allowed to take a tip credit of up to 50% from any workers who receive tips. This means that tipped workers must be paid a minimum wage of $3.63 per hour as long as they earn enough tips to match the federal minimum of $7.25. If their total wages fall below $7.25, their employer must pay them extra to make up the difference.

Employers in the state can also require workers to chip in a portion of their tips into a tip pool, with the collected amount being distributed among other employees. However, no worker may be forced to give a portion that is unreasonable, and no employer may take tips from a tip pool.

Oklahoma’s Regulations for Legal Holidays

Oklahoma does not require employers in the state to provide paid days off during legal holidays, though they can choose to do so as part of their employees’ contracts. The state observes most of the holidays defined by federal law, as follows:

  • New Year’s Day (January 1);

  • Christmas Day (December 25);

  • Independence Day (July 4);

  • Veteran’s Day (November 11);]

  • Columbus Day (the second Monday of October);

  • Thanksgiving Day (the fourth Thursday of November);

  • Labor Day (the first Monday of September);

  • Memorial Day (the last Monday of May);

  • George Washington’s birthday/Presidents’ Day (the third Monday of February);

  • Martin Luther King’s birthday (the third Monday of January).

If any of these holidays fall on a Saturday, they will be observed on the preceding Friday. On the other hand, any holiday that takes place on a Sunday will be observed on the following Monday. Any employee who is required to work on any of these holidays will be entitled to paid leave at another date.

It should be noted that Oklahoma does not officially observe National Independence Day on June 19 as a public holiday. Because of this, it is unlikely for employees to be given paid leave when the holiday takes place.

Is Oklahoma a “Right-To-Work” State?

Yes, Oklahoma enforces the right-to-work doctrine through Article XXIII, Section 1A of its Constitution, preserving the rights of workers to join or refuse to join any labor organization. Under this law, a worker cannot be forced to join or leave any organization as a prerequisite for a job or continued employment, and no recommendation or approval from a union is required in order to obtain job opportunities.

Similarly, workers cannot be forced to pay any association dues in order to stay employed under right-to-work rules. In addition, no organization or union may deduct a portion of its members’ wages as payment for such dues without prior authorization.

Workers who are part of unions gain access to additional labor rights, as specified under the National Labor Relations Act. For instance, they can negotiate higher wages and improved benefits with their employers, raise concerns on matters such as pay equity, and organize protected strikes and picket lines.

Is Oklahoma an At-Will Employment State?

Oklahoma follows at-will regulations with regard to employment, meaning a worker can be fired at any time and for any reason as long as it does not violate public policy. This also means that a worker can terminate their employment contract with their employer at any time if they wish.

There are specific scenarios wherein an employer may not terminate a worker under at-will rules. For example, if a worker’s contract states that they can only be fired on specific grounds, their employer cannot fire them if the reason does not fall under those grounds. In most cases, contracts are either written or oral.

As an example, certain contracts may state that a worker cannot be terminated for reasons such as poor performance or misconduct unless their employer follows disciplinary procedures first. Some may guarantee continued employment if a worker completes a probationary working period. An employer can be charged with a breach of contract if they fire a worker without adhering to these terms.

Additionally, there are instances where a company handbook or an employee’s manual can prevent employers from firing workers at will, forming an implied contract that protects them from termination. An employer is required to follow the rules laid out in these publications, and attempting to terminate a worker in violation of these rules can result in the same civil charges that they can face when breaching an oral or written contract.

What Qualifies as Wrongful Termination in Oklahoma?

Wrongful termination in Oklahoma can happen for various reasons. Again, an employer cannot go against the terms of a worker’s contract, whether the said contract is oral, written, or implied. An employee also cannot be fired for voting, participating in jury duty, reporting workplace incidents, or refusing to commit perjury.

Similarly, it is illegal for employers to terminate workers as retaliation for exercising their employment and labor rights, whether by filing a workers’ compensation claim or going on medical or family leave. Any employer who goes against these provisions can be charged with violating Section 7 of the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Code or the United States Family and Medical Leave Act, respectively. In addition, under the FMLA, no employer may refuse to reinstate an employee once their medical or family leave is over.

Furthermore, employers are prohibited from firing workers for discriminatory reasons. There are federal and state laws that enforce this, including Title VII of the United States Civil Rights Act and the Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act. Specifically, these laws make it illegal for an employer to fire workers based on their age, race, color, religion, or gender. They also prevent employers from terminating a qualified worker who is pregnant or suffering from a disability.

Another federal law that protects Oklahoma workers from unlawful termination is the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which prohibits employment-based discrimination against people based on their genetic information. There is also the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires employers to notify their employees in advance regarding any mass layoffs or qualified plant closings.

How Do You Report an Employer in Oklahoma for Wrongful Termination?

Those who have been unlawfully terminated by their employer can report the matter to either the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission or the state’s Office of Civil Rights Enforcement. The OCRE predominantly handles cases related to discrimination, while the OESC also covers matters involving unpaid wages, labor violations, and retaliation-based termination. Both agencies are open to complainants whose cases stem from violations of state law.

On the other hand, if a worker has been wrongfully terminated through a violation of federal law, they can file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They can submit their complaints to both the EEOC and any of the aforementioned agencies if their employer violated both state and federal laws.

Workers can file a complaint with the OESC online by completing the complaint form on its website. They can also submit their complaint by scanning the QR code on its flyer. Those who wish to learn more about their possible case can contact the OESC via e-mail at or by telephone at (405) 525-1500.

Meanwhile, those who wish to file with the OCRE can send their complaint to either 313 NE 21st Street in Oklahoma City or 15 W. 6th Street, Suite 1000 in Tulsa. For additional queries, they can call either (405) 521-3921 or (918) 581-2342 or send an e-mail to As part of the process, an investigator will gather evidence from the parties involved, after which the OCRE will determine whether there is enough proof of discrimination or retaliation against the complainant.

In order to submit a complaint to the EEOC, a worker can visit the Commission’s website to see which field office is located nearest to them. From there, they can speak with staff members who will prepare a charge that they can review and sign, and the Commission will begin an investigation. Alternatively, a complainant can view the Commission’s public portal for instructions on how to file through mail. They can also make inquiries by contacting the EEOC at 1-800-669-4000.

Oklahoma workers must note that when filing a complaint, the burden of proof predominantly falls upon them, and so they must gather any evidence that can support their case. They must also take note of any requirements that an agency may ask from them, or else they will risk having their case dismissed. For this, they can find an attorney to help them throughout the process.

What is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Termination Cases in Oklahoma?

There are varying statutory deadlines that an unlawfully terminated worker in Oklahoma may encounter. These depend on the nature of a worker’s complaint and which law was violated in their case. They are as follows:

Cause of Employee’s Wrongful Termination

Deadline for Filing

Wrongful termination in violation of the Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act

180 days, starting from the date when the discrimination occurred

Wrongful termination in violation of federal anti-discrimination laws (federal complaint under the EEOC)

180 days, starting from the date when the discrimination occurred; extended to 300 days if the violation involves both state and federal laws

Wrongful termination through a breach of an oral or implied contract (under Title 12, Section 95 of the Oklahoma Statutes)

3 years

Wrongful termination through a breach of a written contract (under Title 12, Section 95 of the Oklahoma Statutes)

5 years

Wrongful termination in violation of a union contract (under the National Labor Relations Act)

6 months

Wrongful termination in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act

2 years; extended to 3 years if the violation was willful

Wrongfully terminated employees can speak to a lawyer to determine the violation committed in their termination and thus identify which statutory deadline applies to their case. Failing to file within any of these given deadlines can result in the dismissal of a worker’s case.

How Much Can Someone Sue an Employer in Oklahoma for Wrongful Termination?

A worker in Oklahoma who has been wrongfully terminated can receive compensation in the form of both economic and non-economic damages. These refer to the monetary and intangible losses caused by their unlawful termination, and they can include the following:

  • Any wages the worker has lost due to their termination;

  • Any benefits that the worker was unable to receive due to their termination;

  • Damages related to pain and suffering, often due to the emotional stress the worker experienced;

  • Legal filing and attorney fees for subsequent lawsuits or complaints;

  • Punitive damages if the violation committed was willful or severe.

On average, a settlement in a wrongful termination case in Oklahoma can range from $4,000 to $90,000, depending on the matter involved. If a case reaches the courtroom, a worker can receive at least $100,000 in damages.

There are also instances where settlements can go even higher. For example, Shannon Clark, the former spokesman of the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office, received a settlement of $125,000 in his employment discrimination lawsuit against the Tulsa County Board of County Commissioners. Clark took legal action against the board in 2016 after his termination due to a controversy related to a fatal police shooting.

However, if a wrongful termination case concerns a violation of federal laws, there are limits to the total amount of economic and non-economic damages that can be awarded, as specified by the EEOC. These limits, which depend on the number of workers an employer has, are as follows:

  • $50,000 if an employer has 15 to 100 workers;

  • $100,000 if an employer has 101 to 200 workers;

  • $200,000 if an employer has 201 to 500 workers;

  • $300,000 if an employer has more than 500 workers.

The EEOC also states that in federal discrimination cases involving age, a worker can only recover liquidated damages that are equal to the amount of back pay that they are given. The same applies to cases involving sex-based wage discrimination in violation of the federal Equal Pay Act.

Resources for Employees in Oklahoma

Any Oklahomans who have been wrongfully terminated by their employer can find potential legal assistance and additional information related to their case by referring to any of the following resources.

Oklahoma Bar Association

The Oklahoma Bar Association can be accessed by users who are involved in civil cases. The organization allows people to find attorneys using their names, locations, and practice areas through its Find A Lawyer Directory. It also has a Legal Resources directory that users can refer to in order to find other legal clinics and organizations throughout the state that provide aid to low-income citizens. People can contact the organization by calling 405-416-7000 or 800-522-8065 (toll-free).


OKLaw is a joint project that is overseen by Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc. in collaboration with other organizations, such as Pro Bono Net. Its website is open to state residents who wish to learn about topics related to civil law matters, including employment and unemployment guidelines. Its free resources cover topics such as wage claims, job discrimination, workers’ compensation, and wrongful termination. They are available in multiple languages, including Spanish, Russian, and Vietnamese.

Community Action Agency of Oklahoma

The Community Action Agency of Oklahoma provides legal assistance to eligible low-income individuals and families in the state. Through its partnership with Legal Services of Oklahoma, it can help those who are involved in cases related to wrongful termination and unemployment benefits. The agency can be reached at (405) 232-0199 or at

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