Oklahoma unemployment laws establish a system of short-term compensation for workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own. Except during times when high unemployment rates have prompted periods of extended benefits, unemployment benefits are available for 26 weeks during a benefit year.
Unemployment laws comprise Chapter 1 of Oklahoma’s Labor title, which further addresses such matters as child labor, minimum wages, workplace safety, drug testing and voluntary veterans’ preferences. Okla. Stat. tit. 40 § 1-101 : 9-104
The Unemployment Insurance Division of the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission administers unemployment benefits in Oklahoma. The Commission consists of five members, appointed by the governor and approved by the Oklahoma Senate. Two members represent employers, two represent employees and one – the chairperson – represents the public.
Administrative rules further interpret Oklahoma unemployment law. Formally adopted in compliance with the Oklahoma Administrative Code, the rules regulate how administrative officials apply Oklahoma unemployment law. OAC 240.
Oklahoma Unemployment Case Law
Case law also contributes to the body of Oklahoma unemployment law. The Labor title establishes a Board of Review, which hears appeals related to decisions handed down by the Appeal Tribunal. Board of Review decisions become part of case law that guides future decisions. The OESC Board of Review promulgates rules governing its proceedings. OAC 240 § 15.
Beyond the administrative appeal process, Oklahoma District Courts may review administrative Board of Review decisions. Those District Court decisions, or any related decisions by higher courts, are part of Oklahoma unemployment case law. The Oklahoma Supreme Court exercises ultimate appellate review of Oklahoma unemployment cases that move into the civil court system.
The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission is required by statute to maintain a precedent manual containing relevant case law. The precedent manual must be kept in OESC offices and made available on the Internet.
Statutory Unemployment Law
In Oklahoma unemployment law under title 40, Article 2 contains provisions most relevant to unemployed workers. The Benefits article includes parts governing computation of benefits, eligibility for benefits, protection of benefits, disqualification for benefits, filing unemployment claims, appeals of unemployment decisions, extended benefits and garnishment of child support obligations.
Article 3 of Oklahoma unemployment law describes employers’ obligations and required contributions to an Unemployment Compensation Fund. The Contributions article provides procedures for judicial review of controversies involving employer contributions. Article 3 includes provisions for funding unemployment benefits to state workers and to employees of non-profit organizations.
Other sections of Oklahoma unemployment law establish penalties for violations of unemployment law, establish discrete funds for computers and technology, declare public policy and spell out definitions.
Highlights of Oklahoma Unemployment Law
Weekly unemployment benefits are generally 1/23 of taxable wages earned during the highest paid quarter of a base period. The individual unemployment benefit amount is limited to a statewide weekly benefit amount. That maximum amount can vary according to the overall health of the state Unemployment Compensation Fund.
The base period on which Oklahoma unemployment benefits are calculated includes the first four of the last five calendar quarters preceding the individual’s unemployment claim. Calendar quarters are the three month periods prior to the last day of March, June, September and December.
Filing for Unemployment
Oklahoma unemployment law allows claims to be filed by telephone, in paper format or online. The person filing must provide true answers, and may not withhold relevant information.
New claims may only be filed after one full week of unemployment. Any days worked during a week require waiting another full week until a new claim may be filed.
Eligibility For Employment
A person must be able to work if work consistent with that persons training, experience and education were available. Being enrolled in school is not a barrier to collecting unemployment benefits as long as the applicant is willing to quit school, change hours or accept shift work.
A person who voluntarily quit a job without good cause, or who was fired for misconduct. A person who voluntarily quit a job without good cause is eligible for benefits after earning wages on another job equal to 10 times their weekly benefit amount.
Good Cause for Voluntarily Quitting
Good causes for quitting include changes in working conditions that are adverse to a person health safety or morals. Unfair treatment or substantially difficult working conditions are also considered good cause. Employees who waive written work agreements to accept layoffs may also be separated for good cause.
Employees fired for misconduct are not eligible for benefits. An employer must prove misconduct occurred. Misconduct may be either an act or omission constituting a substantial breech of job duties, excessive absenteeism, acts or omissions that put the people or property at risk, dishonesty, wrongdoing, criminal acts or violation of rules enacted to assure safety or orderly job performance.
Seek and Accept Work
A person is disqualified from receiving any unemployment for the full period of unemployment if they fail to accept an offer of suitable work or apply for suitable work as directed.
Suitable work is defined as that consistent with a person’s experience, training and education. Other considerations can include distance of available work from a residence, likelihood of obtaining local work and likelihood of obtaining any customary work. After receipt of half of unemployment benefits, suitable work is not limited to a customary occupation.
Unemployment recipients who qualified for benefits based on part-time jobs may seek work consistent with the number of hours they worked weekly prior to unemployment.
Individuals entitled to a notice of determination denying unemployment benefits may appeal the decision within 10 days after the date the determination was mailed, or 10 days after the notice was delivered if it was not mailed. An appeal may be filed by telephone.
Board of Review
Appeals Tribunal decisions may be filed with the OESC Board of Review within 10 days of the mailing of a Tribunal Referee’s decision. The Board of Review accepts as evidence all documents and records included in the original hearing. Administrative rules provide procedures for introduction or exclusion of evidence that was not included in the original hearing.
Appeals to District Court
The Board of Review’s decision becomes final 30 days after mailing to the parties’ last known address, unless an interested party files an appeal in District Court. Appeals to the District Court may not dispute facts supported by evidence in the underlying case, but the District Court may remand the case to the Appeals Tribunal and order additional evidence to be considered.
Right to an Unemployment Attorney
Oklahoma allows individuals appealing unemployment decisions the right to retain an attorney. Oklahoma law limits unemployment attorney fees to a reasonable portion of benefits a person receives.
If you have been denied unemployment benefits, you have a limited time to take action. If your unemployment determination is pending, you do best to have an attorney ready before you receive your decision. When you receive the decision in the mail, several days might have already lapsed in the 10-day deadline to file an appeal.
Time to act is limited. For a free consultation with an unemployment attorney call the Oklahoma Unemployment Experts unemployment lawyer or click the button below to set up your free unemployment consultation now.