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Employee Separation & Unemployment
In Oklahoma, full-time employment is 32 or more hours per week and individuals who are employed full-time are not eligible for unemployment benefits. If the hours drop below 32, there is potential to receive UI payments. All earnings must be reported the week they are earned, not paid, and we deduct any earnings over $100 from the individual's unemployment benefits. Subsequently, if the individual earns $100 more than the weekly benefit amount, no benefits will be paid.
Yes. When a person is separated due to lack of work and they meet the monetary requirements, benefits will be paid. We allow return to work dates within 8 weeks of the last day worked. The return to work date normally suspends our work registration and work search requirements.
We no longer have the partial claims program, but anyone who has had their hours reduced to less than full-time may file an unemployment claim.
This depends on the nature of closure. If the business is permanently closed, the PTO will have no effect on UI payments. If there is a return to work date, the PTO will be deducted in the same manner as earnings.
If the payments are required due to law or contract, they will be deductible from unemployment benefits. Otherwise, they are considered a gift and not deductible.
It would depend on why they quit. Various sections of the Oklahoma Security Act may apply. You can access the most recent Oklahoma Employment Security Act on our Policies page. Sections 2-404, 2-404.1, 2-404.2 and 2-210 all cover various situations surrounding voluntarily quitting a job. If the claimant can show good cause for quitting, benefits will be allowed. Section 2-405 provides a list of good cause reasons. Section 2-210 indicates: if the claimant quit on the advice of a doctor, to relocate with a spouse who has accepted employment outside of commuting distance or quits due to domestic violence or abuse benefits will be allowed. In the 2-210 situations, benefit wage charges may be waived provided the employer protests the payment of benefits and protests the benefit wage charge.
Unemployment is paid on a weekly basis and all claim weeks need to be filed on a weekly basis. Employees must know how to determine their weekly salary. Have them multiply their hourly wage times the number of hours worked each week and report that amount. In cases where the employee is paid a specific bi-weekly salary, have them report half of the gross amount of the bi-weekly salary.
Individuals must file their own claims. Employers may provide any needed information to the individual such as their address, or name as it appears on tax documents.
A mass claim is a claim initiated by the employer when a temporary shutdown occurs. In order to file the mass claim, the employer must have at least 25 employees and must complete an excel file with specific information on each employee. The file will establish claims and employees will need to file weekly certifications for payment until they return to work. Inquiries on mass claims may be sent to MASSClaims@oesc.state.ok.us. Please note, mass claims need a few days to process to ensure that the file is correct. If you have closed and are unable to correspond with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC), please have your employees file their own claims at www.ui.ok.gov.
The protest requirements are found on the "OES-617 Notice of Application for Unemployment Benefits". Protests must be postmarked or received within ten (10) days of the date on the notice. The protests must contain specific facts on why the claimant should not be paid benefits.
Benefit Wage Charges
Benefit wage charges are the taxable base period wages reported by the employer to OESC that are used to determine a claimant's eligibility to receive unemployment benefits. Benefit wage charges to an employer account are used in computing the employer's annual contribution rate.
Benefit wage charges were waived during the COVID-19 pandemic for experience-rated employers. This waiver expired June 30, 2021.
Any eligible claim for unemployment benefits with an effective date after July 3, 2021 (the last day in the week that includes the June 30 expiration date) will result in a benefit wage charge at the 5th compensable week of unemployment.
If a claimant is allowed benefits based on the reason for separation from the most recent employment at the time an initial claim was filed, and a valid benefit year is established, a notice is mailed to each base period employer showing the amount of base period wages being charged. This form is entitled "Notice of Benefit Wages" and is issued when benefits are paid to a claimant for the fifth week of unemployment in the benefit year. This notice should be retained for record keeping, as no additional transcript will be furnished.
Yes, employer protests can be submitted in response to each Notice of Benefit Wages letter an employer receives. The protest must be in writing and must give the basis of the protest and the circumstances of the claimant’s last separation from employment. Acceptable reasons for protest are included in the FAQ below.
An employer protest can be made when the claimant's separation from the employer was under any of the following circumstances:
- Voluntary quit without good cause connected to his/her work
- Discharged for misconduct connected with his/her work
- Was a regularly scheduled employee of that employer prior to the week the employee separated from other employment, and continued to work for the employer through the fifth compensable week of unemployment, and continued to work during the current claim
- Was separated from his/her employment as a direct result of a major natural disaster, declared as such by the President pursuant to the Disaster Relief Act of 1974, P.L. 93-288, and such employee would have been entitled to disaster unemployment assistance if he/she had not received unemployment insurance benefits
- Was discharged within the first 90 days for unsatisfactory performance during an initial employment probationary period. The employee must be informed of the probationary period within the first seven (7) workdays. There must be conclusive evidence to establish that the individual was separated due to unsatisfactory work performance and not separated because of lack of work due to temporary, seasonal, casual, or similar employment not of regular, permanent and year-round nature
- Left employment to attend training approved under the Trade Act of 1974 and is allowed unemployment benefits pursuant to Section 2-416 of this title
- Was separated from employment for compelling family circumstances as defined in Section 2-210 of the Oklahoma Employment Security Act
- Was hired to replace a United States serviceman/servicewoman called into active duty, and laid-off upon the return of that serviceman/servicewoman
Employers are notified by a letter entitled "Notice of Cancellation of Benefit Wages" if it is determined that the base period charge has been canceled and will not be used in computing the employer's annual contribution rate.
If it is determined that the base period wage charge will be used, employers will receive a "Notice of Determination to Base Period Employer." Employers have the right to appeal this determination. The appeal must be in writing, and postmarked within fourteen (14) days from the date the determination was mailed.
Annual Contribution Rates
State law does not allow for a reduction of employers' rates. A rate protest can only challenge benefit wage calculations and timely taxable wage numbers.
All employers who had reported wages for that four-quarter time period are sent a Notice of Benefit Wages to protest charges. The Notice of Contribution Rate protest does not allow for these claims to be re-opened or challenged.
Benefit wage charges (charges related to a business' former employee who has requested unemployment benefits) are added after a business' former employee/claimant receives their fifth week of benefits.
If you wish to protest your rate change, you may do so by filling out our Employer Contribution Rate Protest Form and submitting to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your protest must be filed within 20 days of the mailing date on your rate change notice. If you email/fax your protest, your date of submission will be the time stamp of the email/fax, not the date noted on the actual protest form. If you mail the form in, the date of submission will be the postmarked date on the submission by the postal service.
State law does not allow for a reduction in employer rates. A rate protest can only challenge the calculation of the benefit wage and timely taxable wage numbers. These calculations are done by a computer and errors are rare, so a protest will likely involve a review of reported wages to OESC.
The form notifies the employer of their 2021 Contribution Rate effective beginning Jan. 1, 2021. It should be forwarded to whoever files your business' quarterly wage reports.
Any of the below reasons may explain an increase in your rate change.
- The number of claims filed/paid have depleted the unemployment trust fund to a level that state law requires OESC to increase employer contribution rates and replenish the fund. This applies to nearly all Oklahoma employers, even those who didn't have any former employees claim unemployment.
- A new benefit wage charge has caused the rate to elevate (benefit wage charges were waived during the COVID-19 pandemic).
- Reduced payroll reported has caused the rate to increase.
- An additional business has been merged with the account and that newly acquired business history has changed the calculation.
- Wage history that was not reported or paid timely cannot be used, lowering the wage amount that could offset the benefit wage charges.
The 2021 rate calculation encompasses all benefit wages charges and timely taxable wages for the twelve quarters from July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2020. Each year, the oldest four quarters roll off, and the newest four quarters are added. After three years, the older charges go away.
The benefit wage charge represents wages reported to OESC and used in a benefit calculation. When someone files for unemployment, the system looks at a four-quarter (one year) period of earnings to determine a claimant's eligible benefit amount. If the reported wages are incorrect, then you should file a wage report adjustment to correct the amount.
COVID-19 for Employers
If you are closing permanently:
- You must submit an OES-24 Termination of Business form online through the EZ Tax Express portal.
- Employees must file their own claims online at UI.ok.gov. If assistance is needed, claimants may call 405-525-1500 or visit their nearest Oklahoma Works office.
If you are closing temporarily:
- Employees may file their own claims online at UI.ok.gov, or if they will return to work within eight (8) weeks you may file a mass claim.
- Employers are not required to report temporary closings for the purpose of unemployment taxes or claims.
Yes, work search efforts are a requirement for individuals receiving Unemployment Insurance benefits. This requirement can be waived if the individual was provided a return-to-work date by the employer. This date must be within eight (8) weeks of the layoff date.
If you are responding to the OES-617 Notice of Application for Unemployment Benefits, you may respond by fax to 405-962-7524 or by mail to PO Box 52006, Oklahoma City, OK 73152-2006. If you are responding to a fact-finding request, please call the number left by the adjudicator and leave a message.
Notify OESC in writing of the return-to-work date by faxing the information to 405-962-7504. If employees refuse to return to work, please email OESC at email@example.com with the details of the situation. Employees who refuse to return to work may be disqualified from receiving unemployment benefits.