The minimum wage is the lowest wage per hour that may be paid by law to most employees in most jobs. The U.S. federal government first adopted a national minimum wage in 1938 as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act, and it has been raised by Congress over twenty times since then.
The federal minimum wage was set as $7.25 per hour effective July 2009. As of 2023, the federal minimum wage has remained unchanged for over 14 years, the longest stretch ever without an increase. During this period, the minimum wage has lost over 27 percent of its value when adjusted for inflation, and some 40 percent of its value compared to its peak in 1968.
As of 2023, Oklahoma is one of 20 states that has a minimum wage set at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Meanwhile, 30 states and D.C., including four of Oklahoma’s neighbors (Arkansas, Missouri, New Mexico and Colorado), have set a higher minimum wage, of which all but two are at or above $10 per hour. In addition, 48 cities have set a local minimum wage higher than their state minimum. However, the Oklahoma Legislature in 2014 passed a preemption law prohibiting municipalities from setting their own minimum wage.
Some employees may be paid less than the minimum wage, also known as the subminimum wage. For example, an employer in Oklahoma may pay a tipped employee as little as $2.13 an hour in direct wages if that amount plus the tips received equal at least the federal minimum wage, the employee retains all tips, and the employee customarily and regularly receives more than $30 a month in tips. Employers may also gain authorization to pay subminimum wages to workers who have disabilities for the work being performed. Certain young workers and full-time student workers may also be paid less than the standard minimum wage.