Both Oklahoma and federal law requires that employers pay employees at least the minimum wage. Employers are generally defined as being those businesses or people who employ more than 10 workers in one place or who do more than $100,000 in annual business. There are some exceptions that apply to specific individuals, such as farmers and ranchers, part-time workers, people who are under a certain age and domestic servants in private homes, but minimum wage laws apply to most hourly employees. But what happens if you believe you are owed wages by a current or former employer because you have been paid less than the $7.25 an hour that Oklahoma law requires?
One way to enforce employees' rights is through an administrative process. Under Oklahoma law, the Commissioner of Labor has the duty to investigate and enforce complaints made pursuant to the minimum wage law. If such an investigation finds that an employer has paid an employee insufficient wages, the commissioner's office will mail the findings to the parties and the employer will be liable for the amount of the deficiency, plus a penalty payment of 10% of the deficient amount. If the employee accepts this finding and recommendation, he or she can no longer pursue other avenues of redress related to that wage claim with that employer.
The other way to enforce a minimum wage claim is through the judicial system. By filing a complaint in court, the employee can seek compensation from the employer if he or she has been paid less than what is legally required. If a court finds in favor of the employee, the judge can find the employer liable for twice the amount of wages that should have been paid, with any amounts already paid subtracted from the total. Furthermore, the employer may be liable for court costs and attorney's fees paid by the employee bringing the suit. It is important to recognize that employees may not negotiate away their rights to minimum wage; an agreement between the parties to have the employee work for less than the minimum wage amount is not a defense that can be used by an employer.
As this post illustrates, there may be a couple of ways to recoup lost wages if you think you have been paid an incorrect amount of wages. If so, you may want to consider consulting an experienced Oklahoma employment law attorney.
Source: 40 O.S.§ 197.1 et seq., "Your Rights Under the Oklahoma Minimum Wage Act," accessed Dec. 29, 2014