The minimum age to work in Oklahoma is 14, according to the Oklahoma Department of Labor. Exemptions to the Oklahoma child labor laws include children working on farms or for parents, or any entity in which a parent owns an equity interest. An equity interest is defined as an ownership interest in a business entity. Children who sell or deliver newspapers to consumers are also exempt from this rule.
Getting an Employment Certificate
A teen under 16 needs an employment certificate, or work permit, to be employed. They can get this document from their principal, headmaster or the equivalent administrative officer of the school which the child attends. The child’s parents or guardians need to approve the certificate if the child is home-schooled. The school will verify the child’s age and the compulsory school requirements for the state.
Hours Teens May Work
A teen under 16 years of age may work up to three hours on school days, Monday through Friday. They may work up to eight hours on non-school days when they are not required to attend classes. They may work up to 18 hours in a school week. A teen under 16 may work up to 40 hours in a non-school week if school is out for the whole week and attendance is not compulsory. A minor under 16 may not work overtime.
What Constitutes Overtime Under Federal Law?
Since Oklahoma does not have state laws regarding overtime, the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) rules regarding overtime apply. Overtime is defined as over 40 hours in one workweek. FLSA requires that workers receive 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for overtime work. FLSA does not limit the number of hours that an employee 16 or older may work in a workweek nor does it mandate that an employee receive overtime pay for work on Saturdays, Sundays, holidays or regular days of rest unless the employee works overtime hours on these days.
When School Is in Session
A teen under 16 cannot work before 7:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m. from the Tuesday after Labor Day to May 31st of the following year. Between June 1st and Labor Day, a minor under 16 may not work before 7:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. If an employer is not subject to the FLSA, a minor may work until 9:00 p.m. throughout the year on days that are followed by a non-school day.
A worker can contact the U.S. Department of Labor to learn whether an employer is subject to FLSA. Covered enterprises include businesses with workers engaged in interstate commerce that produce goods for interstate commerce or handle, sell or otherwise work on goods or materials moved in, or produced, for such commerce.
Jobs Teens Can’t Work
FLSA states there are 17 hazardous occupations in which a minor under the age of 18 cannot be employed, even if the parent or guardian owns the business. The term that the FLSA uses to denote this dangerous work is “oppressive child labor.” An individual can contact the U.S. Department of Labor for a list of these hazardous occupations, which include both farm and non-farm jobs. Oklahoma Works lists a number of the hazardous occupations, sharing answers to FAQs for job seekers. The list includes manufacturing explosives and work that involves exposure to radioactive substances.
Minors under 16 may not perform operations related to construction, cooking or baking, fryers or grills, hoisting devices, ladders or scaffolds, lawn mowers and weed eaters other than working for oneself, loading and unloading motor vehicles or service as helpers on vehicles, power-driven machines or equipment, public messenger service, public utilities or communications, slicers or sharp knives, transportation of people or property by rail, highway, air, water, pipeline or other means and warehousing or storage.
It is possible for a minor under 16 to work in proximity to workers 16 and over doing such jobs. For example, a minor could operate a cash register at a fast food restaurant, but would not be allowed to fry food to be sold at the restaurant. An individual can learn more about what rules are specific to teens according to the FLSA by referencing U.S. Department of Labor guides on child labor rules for certain professions, such as restaurants, agriculture and grocery stores.
Break Requirements for Teens
A minor under 16 must be given a one-hour cumulative rest period for eight consecutive hours worked. Alternatively, they can be given a 30-minute rest period for five consecutive hours worked. Employers must document break periods for minors ages 14 and 15. Once an employee is 16, the employer has no requirement to provide breaks or lunches.
Oklahoma’s Minimum Hourly Wage
The Oklahoma minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, the same as the federal minimum wage. An Oklahoma employer must pay employees who are not tipped this minimum wage. This rule applies to Oklahoma employers with 10 or more full-time employees at any one location and employers with annual gross sales over $100,000, irrespective of how many full-time employees they have. One of the exceptions to this rule is FLSA allows an employer to pay a person under 20 years of age a minimum wage of not less than $4.25 per hour for the employee's first 90 consecutive calendar days of employment.
After the 90 days are up or the worker reaches age 20, whichever comes first, the employer must pay the employee the federal minimum hourly wage. Certain full-time students, student learners, apprentices and workers with disabilities can be paid less than the minimum wage under special certificates from the U.S. Secretary of Labor. A lower wage rate is called the sub-minimum wage.
Tipped Employees and Wages
Most people understand minimum wage as a defined hourly wage set by the federal government. A state can set a higher, but not a lower, minimum wage than the federal government. Employees who earn the majority of their money through tips, such as bartenders and waiters, are aware that there is a different minimum wage. This is the minimum wage for tipped employees, which at first glance appears to be lower than $7.25 per hour.
A tipped employee is a person in an occupation in which workers regularly receive over $30 a month in tips. An employer may consider tips part of the employee's wages. FLSA states an employer must pay a tipped employee at least $2.13 per hour in direct wages.
If a tipped employee earns less than $7.25 an hour from a combination of the direct wage and tips, the employer is required to make up the difference. Employees must retain all of their tips except if they participate in a valid tip pooling or sharing arrangement. Oklahoma Labor Statute 40 Section 197.5 further provides an employer shall not pay an employee who has reached the age of 18 years of age less than $2.00 per hour.
Work and the COVID-19 Pandemic
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Oklahoma public schools have offered virtual instruction at times of the day that are different than usually scheduled hours. Teens who engaged in distance learning may have been asked to work hours that violated state law, even if their school was not offering in-person or virtual instruction at those hours. Oklahoma’s child labor laws, however, remain in effect.
An individual with a complaint about an employer can file a child labor complaint form with the Oklahoma Department of Labor. An employer found to be in willful violation of the law will be guilty of a misdemeanor, and for each offense, subject to a fine of $500, imprisonment for a period between 10 and 30 days, or both.
Home Baking Act of 2017
The Oklahoma Home Baking Act of 2017 allows a business owner to bake certain goods at home and offer them for sale from their home or selected off-premises locations. According to FLSA, a minor under 16 may not perform operations related to cooking or baking, even if the cooking or baking occurs at home. A minor under 16 may still work with a home baking business, just in a different capacity. For example, a minor under 16 could sell the baked goods in accordance with the rules in the Home Baking Act rather than cook the goods.
- Oklahoma Department of Labor: Child Labor Frequently Asked Questions
- U.S. Department of Labor: Employment/Age Certificate
- Oklahoma Works: Frequently Asked Questions for Job Seekers
- Oklahoma State Department of Education: School Year 2020-21 Resources Amid Coronavirus/COVID-19
- U.S. Department of Labor: Overtime Pay
- Oklahoma Office of Management & Enterprise Services: The U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act
- U.S. Department of Labor: Handy Reference Guide to the Fair Labor Standards Act
- Oklahoma State University Extension: Clarifying the OK Home Baking Act of 2017
- U.S. Department of Labor: Fact Sheet #2A: Child Labor Rules for Employing Youth in Restaurants and Quick-Service Establishments Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
- U.S. Department of Labor: Fact Sheet #40: Overview of Youth Employment (Child Labor) Provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for Agricultural Occupations
- U.S. Department of Labor: Fact Sheet #38: Child Labor Rules for Employing Youth in Grocery Stores under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
- U.S. Department of Labor: State Minimum Wage Laws
- Oklahoma Department of Labor: Child Labor Complaint Form
- Oklahoma Department of Labor: Child Labor Law
- U.S. Department of Labor: Wages
- Oklahoma State Legislature: Oklahoma Statutes
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.