Both employees and their employers often have questions about what type of leave or time off laws Oklahoma has. In general, no federal or Oklahoma state law requires employers to provide paid time off or to pay out an employee’s accrued vacation, sick leave, or other paid time off (PTO) at the termination of employment.
We will summarize the law below, but because the answer hinges on each employer’s policies, Davis Business Law’s Oklahoma attorneys can provide solutions specific to your business. We can also help employers draft handbooks and written policies to help prevent problems from occurring. Call us at (405) 500-0145 or email us for a free consultation.
Oklahoma employers do not have to provide employees with vacation or holiday benefits, either paid or unpaid. But, if an employer does offer vacation benefits, it must comply with its policies or any employment contract. Further, Oklahoma law considers vacation pay wages.
Termination from Employment
It is legal for an employer’s policy (or for the terms of any employment agreement) to be that an employee loses any accrued vacation upon termination.
It is also legal for an employer to have a policy or enter an employment agreement that requires employees to comply with specific requirements as a prerequisite to paying out any accrued vacation. For example, an employer may have a policy conditioning payment of accrued leave on providing two-weeks notice or being employed for a certain length of time.
The Rollover Policy
Oklahoma employers may implement a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy requiring employees to use their leave by a specific date (such as the end of the calendar year) or lose the accrued leave. The employer must properly notify employees of the policy in advance, and it is best practice to have it in writing.
Oklahoma employers can allow no leave accrual or cap accrued leave, provided the employer properly notifies employees of the policy.
Oklahoma law does not require employers to provide employees with sick leave benefits, either paid or unpaid. However, if an employer chooses to provide sick leave benefits, it must comply with the terms of its established policy or employment contract.
As discussed below, Oklahoma employers may have to provide employees with unpaid sick leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) or other federal laws.
Maternity, Paternity, FMLA
Oklahoma labor laws do not require employers to provide employees with family or medical leave.
Employers must offer qualifying employees unpaid and job-protected leave under the FMLA. If an employee qualifies for leave, the employer must reinstate the employee to their position (or an equivalent position) when the leave ends.
Employees who are eligible for FMLA leave may take off up to 12 weeks per 12 months. The 12-month period can be rolling, and the leave can be intermittent.
To be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must work at a location with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius. With remote working, counting can get confusing. However, federal regulations have tried to address those complications. Call Davis Business Law’s Oklahoma attorneys for answers to your company’s specific situation.
Next, the employee must have worked for a minimum of 12 months and worked at least 1,250 hours in the last year.
Employees can take FMLA leave to care for their serious health condition or that of certain family members. A serious health condition is “an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves: inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility; or. continuing treatment by a health care provider.” A close family member is the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent.
An employee, male or female, can also take leave to bond with a new child, including adopted children. And an employee can take FMLA leave to care for a family member injured during active military duty. An employee caring for a service receives 26 weeks of protected leave per 12 months.
Jury Duty Leave
An employer doesn’t have to pay an employee for time off work for jury duty. But an employer cannot fire or take other adverse employment actions against an employee serving jury duty, so long as the employee gave the employer reasonable notice of the leave after receiving the summons. Further, an employer cannot make the employee use accrued paid time off for jury duty.
Oklahoma employers are not required to provide employees with bereavement leave, but the employer must abide by any policy or employment contract.
Oklahoma employers must provide employees at least two hours of paid leave to vote unless they have three hours on either side of their shift to vote while polls are open. The employer can pick the two-hour window or can adjust the employee’s shift, so they have three hours on either side of the shift to vote while polls are open.
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (“USERRA”) covers service-related leave for Oklahoma employees in the military.
USERRA generally provides protected cumulative leave for up to five years. However, there are some exceptions, including initial enlistments of more than five years, periodic National Guard and Reserve training, and involuntary extensions and recalls, particularly during a national emergency.
Under USERRA, employers must allow covered employees to keep their group healthcare benefits for 24 months of their leave. Upon returning from covered leave, the employer must reinstate the employee to the same or equivalent position that the employee would have been in if they did not take leave (called an “escalator provision”).
Contact an Experienced Oklahoma Business Attorney
Leave laws can be complicated. The FMLA and USERRA are particularly nuanced. Davis Business Law’s attorneys want to help you understand how these laws apply to your business. We are passionate about helping companies to form, grow, and succeed. If your business could use a guide, call us at (405) 500-0145 or email us for a free consultation.